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Article image Antarctic glacial melt may cause irreversible sea level rise

11 July 2019

Actually, the research shows the rate of ice loss from five Antarctic glaciers had doubled in six years and was five times faster than in the 1990s.

The barrier prevents continental ice from flowing into the ocean, where it would melt and cause global sea levels to rise.

The situation is so bad that it could happen even under present-day ice-melting rates.

According to US researchers, the melting of ice spread from the suburbs into the inner part of the continent, and in some places the thickness of glaciers has decreased by 100 metres.

If and when the glacier becomes unstable, the after-effects would be considered "catastrophic".

According to the scientists' notes which have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the glacier poses the most considerable risk to future sea-level rise.

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"It should keep going by itself, and that is the worry", he mentioned.

Thwaites and the nearby Pine Island Glacier are two of the biggest and fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica.

NASA JPL scientist Helene Seroussi, who worked on the research together with Robel, mentioned that the glacier could lose all of its ice over the following 150 years.

The researchers found a precise estimate of how much ice the glacier would shed in the next 50 to 800 years was not possible due to unpredictable climate fluctuations and data limitations.

Earlier this year, NASA added fuel to the fire by discovering a huge void lurking beneath Thwaites Glacier.

"If you trigger this instability, you don't need to continue to force the ice sheet by cranking up temperatures", said Alex Robel, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, who led the study.

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In other words, even if climate change was magically reversed, it wouldn't necessarily stop the unsafe and rapid rise in sea levels that could be triggered by unstable ice sheets.

As the ice melts and crumbles into the oceans, the amount of present water pushes up on coastal areas, threatening floods around the globe. Ice loss is spreading from the coast into the continent's interior, with a reduction of more than 100 metres in thickness at some sites.

So scientists like Seroussi and Robel track Thwaites' grounding line: the spot where the continental ice lifts off the ground and starts to float on the water. "The process becomes self-perpetuating".

The simulations spanned several centuries, as is common for studies on sea level rise.

Most of that water is frozen in masses of ice and snow that can be up to 10,000 feet (3 kilometres) thick. It is important to remember that Arctic sea ice is already floating on water, and 90 percent of an iceberg's mass is underwater and that when its ice melts, the volume shrinks, resulting in no change in sea level, like a cube of ice in a glass of water.

Without it, surrounding glaciers could all disintegrate, raising sea levels by 2.5 metres if all ice were lost.

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Unlike the melting of ice sheets on land, sea ice melting does not raise sea levels but the loss of the reflective white ice leads to more of the sun's heat being absorbed in the ocean, increasing the pace of heating.

Article image Antarctic glacial melt may cause irreversible sea level rise