The West Antarctic ice sheet has started to buckle under pressure. And this phenomenon may result in a 15 feet rise in sea levels. Furthermore, it is an invincible process that will continue without any slackening in its effects.
The ice sheets are not stable and they are behaving in an erratic manner. This had been the thought of scientists since eons and today it is being proven without a shadow of a doubt.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about the stability of marine ice sheets, and many scientists suspected that this kind of behavior is under way,” said lead author Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “This study provides a more quantitative idea of the rates at which the collapse could take place.”
As for the rate of collapse, it is rapid indeed. The research points towards large areas of ice getting detached from the mother ice floes and travelling on the high seas. The Thwaites Glacier would take 200 years to a millennium to vanish from the face of the earth.
This in itself is enough to raise sea levels by two feet. And this glacier is just a barometer of the meltdown of the Antarctic ice sheet system. If this continues for long enough another ten to 13 feet of rising waters could be the end result.
“Previously, when we saw thinning we didn’t necessarily know whether the glacier could slow down later, spontaneously or through some feedback,” Joughin said. “In our model simulations it looks like all the feedbacks tend to point toward it actually accelerating over time; there’s no real stabilizing mechanism we can see.”
There have been further reports on the issue and they all point towards the same conclusion. The inevitable is happening and its advance cannot be stopped no matter what.
"The grounding line is buried under a thousand or more meters of ice, so it is incredibly challenging for a human observer on the ice sheet surface to figure out exactly where the transition is," said glaciologist Eric Rignot, of UC Irvine and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This analysis is best done using satellite techniques."
The process has entered a stage where it will not retreat and its advancement cannot be stemmed. Scientists are using all their data mapping equipment to monitor the rate of diminishment of the ice floes and sheets off the Antarctic coast.
"The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable," Rignot said. "The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable."
NASA is cooperating in this regard as well. NASA's Operation IceBridge will continue to monitor West Antarctica's evolution closely during this year's Antarctica deployment, which begins in October. The scourge of global warming is having an indelible impact on the South Pole region.
The conclusive evidence that has been gathered so far belies the fact that humanity may be in for some floods in the future thanks to environmental degradation. And the tide of events that are transpiring cannot be turned back.
Source: NBC News