Escalating Ice Loss Found in Antarctica
Sheets Melting in an Area Once Thought to Be Unaffected by Global Warming
Monday, January 14, 2008
"Climatic changes appear to be destabilizing vast ice sheets of western Antarctica that had previously seemed relatively protected from global warming, researchers reported yesterday, raising the prospect of faster sea-level rise than current estimates.
While the overall loss is a tiny fraction of the miles-deep ice that covers much of Antarctica, scientists said the new finding is important because the continent holds about 90 percent of Earth's ice, and until now, large-scale ice loss there had been limited to the peninsula that juts out toward the tip of South America.
In addition, researchers found that the rate of ice loss in the affected areas has accelerated over the past 10 years -- as it has on most glaciers and ice sheets around the world.
"Without doubt, Antarctica as a whole is now losing ice yearly, and each year it's losing more," said Eric Rignot, lead author of a paper published online in the journal Nature
Rignot said the tonnage of yearly ice loss in Antarctica is approaching that ofGreenland, where ice sheets are known to be melting rapidly in some parts and where ancient glaciers have been in retreat.
He said the change in Antarctica could become considerably more dramatic because the continent's western shelf, an expanse of ice and snow roughly the size of Texas, is largely below sea level and has broad and flat expanses of ice that could move quickly. Much of Greenland's ice flows through relatively narrow valleys in mountainous terrain, which slows its motion.
The new finding comes days after the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
said the group's next report should look at the "frightening" possibility that ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could melt rapidly at the same time.
"Both Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheet are huge bodies of ice and snow, which are sitting on land," said Rajendra Pachauri
, chief of the IPCC, the United Nations
' scientific advisory group. "If, through a process of melting, they collapse and are submerged in the sea, then we really are talking about sea-level rises of several meters." clip
Pachauri, the IPCC's chief of climate science, will visit Antarctica this week with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to get a firsthand view of the situation.
"You can read as much as you want on these subjects, but it doesn't really enter your system. You don't really appreciate the enormity of what you have," Pachauri said. "
Humanity and the Earth are faced with an enormous conundrum -- sufficient climate policies enjoy political support only in times of rapid economic growth. Yet this growth is the primary factor driving greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental ills."
Clearly, the solution to this conundrum is to make the rapid adoption of "clean energy
" and the "change that must come
" an economic growth machine. To some degree, we are beginning to see this. General Electric
just invested in a wind facility that will serve Austin Texas. General Motors
is serious about its new Volt.
Unfortunately, General Patraeus
is spending 200 plus Billion dollars a year securing the oil supplies in the mideastern fields, which even if we did actually control, we shouldn't burn.
If we don't want General Mayhem to rule,
We need to solve our conundrum.
Labels: climate change