Recent worrying observations discovered that Antarctica’s ice sheet is threatened by melting more than previously thought. In the case of complete meltdown – which is less likely to happen any time soon – the land is in danger of flood.
Scientists have been observing this phenomenon and realized that glaciers in West Antarctica have been losing a lot of water for the past two decades – the equivalent of Mount Everest’s weight every two years. We did the math for your, and it’s approximately 83 gigatons a year.
Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California wrote a new study upon discovering that Antarctica’s ice cover is not only receding, but also going through a fast thinning process – faster than earlier predictions.
They published their study on Thursday in the journal Science, explained that Antarctica’s floating ice shelves act as a dam, protecting oceans from raising their levels from the water melting from glaciers and ice sheets. Apparently, that very dam has thinned with 18 percent in some key points over the last 18 years.
Scripps Institution Fernando Paolo, lead author of the paper, gave a statement saying that 18 years is too little a time for such a drastic change in the Antarctica’s floating ice, and that it raises a serious alarm. The study shows not only that ice decreases in volume, but it also shows a substantial acceleration in the last decade.
Researchers have studied the data recorded by the European Space Agency’s satellites between 1994 and 2012, and noticed that the West Antarctic area presented most signs of the melting acceleration. The worst-affected region of the continent, next to the Southern Ocean where it meets the southern tip of South America, showed that its average level of lost ice had increased by a striking 70 percent.
Considering the current acceleration of thinning, researchers reached the conclusion that the ice shelves acting as dams around the unpredictable sector of West Antarctica are in danger of losing up to half of their volume over the next 200 years. Previous estimations showed that this phenomenon is not due for another few thousands of years.
One of the most direct consequences of the complete collapse of West Antarctica’s glaciers would be the 4 feet of raise in global sea-levels, along with the increased flooding coastal areas. Ted Scambos, glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, stated that the planet is in a constant state of alteration, whether we like it or not, and the most we can do about it is to adapt to its whims.
Image Source: To The End of Hope
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