Updated climate model predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet might melt rapidly


Click to enlargeKLU Science

For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization.

The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur.

Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner.

Continued high emissions of heat-trapping gases could launch a disintegration of the ice sheet within decades, according to a study published Wednesday, heaving enough water into the ocean to raise the sea level as much as three feet by the end of this century.

With ice melting in other regions, too, the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100, the researchers found. That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.

❝ “We are not saying this is definitely going to happen,” said David Pollard, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University and a co-author of the new paper. “But I think we are pointing out that there’s a danger, and it should receive a lot more attention.”

The long-term effect would likely be to drown the world’s coastlines, including many of its great cities…

The paper…does contain some good news. A far more stringent effort to limit emissions of greenhouse gases would stand a fairly good chance of saving West Antarctica from collapse, the scientists found. That aspect of their paper contrasts with other recent studies postulating that a gradual disintegration of West Antarctica may have already become unstoppable.

But the recent climate deal negotiated in Paris would not reduce emissions nearly enough to achieve that goal. That deal is to be formally signed by world leaders in a ceremony in New York next month, in a United Nations building that stands directly by the rising water.

RTFA for info about the research.

This time the barbarians aren’t at the gates of Rome. Rather, they occupy the seat of power, institutions like the American Congress, bought and paid for by profiteers who always can afford to move their corporate headquarters to any convenient hilltop.

If it ain’t for sale, our government will make it so – by an eminent domain taking.

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