In 2011, a plane flying over Antarctica had taken pictures of what scientists are now calling an irreparable crack on a glacier known as Pine Island Glacier, on the western end of the continent. The crack is making scientists fears that the Antarctic ice sheet melts at an astonishing rate realized. They are saying it will eventually release one of the most massive icebergs in recorded history. The researchers are also claiming that the planet Earth will also look completely different than it does today in either a couple of hundred years, or possibly, even a thousand years.
Two landmark studies that have been released have revealed that the Western Antarctic ice sheet is in a damaged state of no repair and is clearly linked directly to climate change. The slow moving collapse will eventually lead to the rise in global sea levels of somewhere around 3.6 to 4.5 meters, or 12 to 15 feet. This will cause many of the low-lying areas of the world to be overrun with the rising waters caused by the melt, as well as coastal cities and many smaller islands.
Also adding to the mix is Thwaites Glacier, which is also in a state of steady withdrawal. This is also being claimed as an unstoppable force of nature caused by humans. The scientists state that the thawing of the glacier will uplift global sea levels by as much as two feet. However, they are quick to point out that Thwaites Glacier is also the stop-gap measure to holding back the much bigger and more dangerous Western Antarctica ice sheet, which melts at an astonishing rate and has researchers fears realized. They are saying that once the glacier is gone, there will be nothing holding back the ice sheet from fully dissolving and adding an additional 10 to 13 feet of water to the already filling world oceans.
Warm water that is being driven by strong winds under the floating shelf of the Thwaites Glacier is being blamed for the current thinning of the ice shelf. However, scientists point out that their research did not include ice losses from other areas of Antarctica or elsewhere, like Greenland. Some researchers used airborne and satellite estimates in order to calculate the erosion of six other glaciers in the same region as the Thwaites Glacier. Their conclusions were the same as the study done in Western Antarctica: the melting of the glaciers in the region has passed the point of no return.
This study points to the fact that many Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change are seriously out of date. In fact, they point out that the most recent report, from September, 2013, did not include the melting ice from Antarctica in the panel’s estimates of rising sea levels, at all. The IPCC put the sea levels only at about 0.28 to 1 meter, or 0.9 to 3.2 feet, by the year 2100. The researchers agree that the simultaneous retreat is happening so fast due to an abundance of ocean warmth floating beneath the glaciers.
This most recent study compounds what scientists have been saying for the past 40 years or so: that the melting of the Antarctic ice sheets will be the largest menace to the quick rise in sea levels. It may also play a role in changing weather patterns for the worse, corroding massive amounts of infrastructure and displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their coastal homes. While trying to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions may help the situation from getting any worse than it already is, high tech developments will need to be made available and used in order to contain the situation as it stands now. Scientists urge world governments to try to stop more deforestation in their lands and to help plant more greenery in an effort to delay or perhaps prevent, global warming from continuing on at the rate it is right now.
Many people have an idea as to what global warming is, and recognize that it is a bad thing. However, most people think that global warming is an event that will be happening in the future, and not right now. The researchers of this most recent study indicate that this is not the case: the Antarctica ice melting at such astonishing rates means greater risk to the planet and is much more prevalent and bigger than what was previously realized. They liken the rise in global water levels to that of the powerful storm surges of Hurricane Sandy, but instead of the waters retreating, they would simply stay in place, washing away cities and homes that lay along coastal areas and leaving behind an insurmountable wake of death and destruction.
Opinion by Korrey Laderoute