Scientists Propose Artificial Wall To Stop The Collapse Of Antarctic Glaciers

Posted: Sep 22 2018, 12:53pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Scientists Propose Artificial Wall to Stop the Collapse of Antarctic Glaciers
Thwaites Ice Shelf in October 2012. Credit: NASA/J. Yungel

Geoengineering could hold off glacier melting and limit sea-level rise.

Melting of Antarctic glaciers is speeding up in response to changes in climate. As the climate warms, the glaciers melt faster and have a dramatic impact on rising sea levels. A recent proposal aims to prevent these potential devastating consequences by building massive underwater walls. The idea is to construct huge walls in the ocean floor beneath massive glaciers where warm water flows into glacier’s undersides and increase ice loss. The artificial structure will prevent glaciers from melting further.

Some glaciers, such as Thwaites, are shrinking too fast. This glacier alone contributes to about 1 percent of global sea level rise. If it continues to melt at an increasing rate, sea level will rise several feet - enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities and global environment.

“Thwaites could easily trigger a runaway ice sheet collapse that would ultimately raise global sea level by about 3 meters.” Lead author Michael Wolovick, a researcher at Princeton University, said.

Glaciers are affected by both warm air and water. Warmer water melts glaciers from below while warm air wreak havoc on these features from above, fueling their increasingly rapid retreat. Computer models reveal that Thwaites Glacier will to be the largest individual source of future sea-level rise if left unchecked. Models further suggest that a 100-meter tall underwater wall could hold off glacier melting which in turn slow down the collapse of ice sheets and limit sea-level rise.

Even a simpler design could prevent this Antarctic glacier, which is roughly the size of Florida, from sliding into the sea and lifting the world's oceans by several meters. The design would consist of constructing artificial mounds or columns on the seafloor. Although this simpler design would not block warm water reaching undersides of glaciers, it could support and hold back the glacier and help it regrow.

Glacial geoengineering attempts to slow down or even reverse the Earth's rising temperatures but researchers believe that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions still remains key to stop climate change and its adverse effects.

"We show that it is possible to stabilize glacier beds by providing extra pinning points they can use to support themselves," said co-author John Moore "Initially, I was very Skeptical. But compared with the alternatives, the idea certainly deserves to be much better researched and investigated."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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