Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Local destabilization can cause complete loss of West Antarctica’s ice masses

03.11.2015

The huge West Antarctic ice sheet would collapse completely if the comparatively small Amundsen Basin is destabilized, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research find. A full discharge of ice into the ocean is calculated to yield about 3 meters of sea-level rise. Recent studies indicated that this area of the ice continent is already losing stability, making it the first element in the climate system about to tip.

The new publication for the first time shows the inevitable consequence of such an event. According to the computer simulations, a few decades of ocean warming can start an ice loss that continues for centuries or even millennia.


A few decades of ocean warming could trigger complete ice loss in Western Antarctica. More info: Fig. 1 in the paper

“What we call the eternal ice of Antarctica unfortunately turns out not to be eternal at all,” says Johannes Feldmann, lead author of the study to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “Once the ice masses get perturbed, which is what is happening today, they respond in a non-linear way: there is a relatively sudden breakdown of stability after a long period during which little change can be found.”

“A few decades can kickstart change going on for millennia”

This is what is expressed by the concept of tipping elements: pushed too far, they fall over into another state. This also applies to, for instance, the Amazon rainforest, and the Indian Monsoon system. In parts of Antarctica, the natural ice-flow into the ocean would substantially and permanently increase.

Ocean warming is slowly melting the ice shelves from beneath, those floating extensions of the land ice. Large portions of the West Antarctic ice sheet are grounded on bedrock below sea level and generally slope downwards in an inland direction. Ice loss can make the grounding line retreat, thereby exposing more and more ice to the slightly warmer ocean water – further accelerating the retreat.

“In our simulations 60 years of melting at the presently observed rate are enough to launch a process which is then unstoppable and goes on for thousands of years,” Feldmann says. This would eventually yield at least 3 meters of sea-level rise. “This certainly is a long process,” Feldmann says. “But it’s likely starting right now.”

The greenhouse-gas emission factor

“So far we lack sufficient evidence to tell whether or not the Amundsen ice destabilization is due to greenhouse gases and the resulting global warming,” says co-author and IPCC sea-level expert Anders Levermann, also from the Potsdam Institute. “But it is clear that further greenhouse-gas emission will heighten the risk of an ice collapse in West Antarctica and more unstoppable sea-level rise.”

“That is not something we have to be afraid of, because it develops slowly,” concludes Levermann. “But it might be something to worry about, because it would destroy our future heritage by consuming the cities we live in – unless we reduce carbon emission quickly.”

Article: Feldmann, J., Levermann, A. (2015): Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet after local destabilization of the Amundsen Basin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, Online Early Edition) [DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1512482112]

Weblink to the article once it is published: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1512482112

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

Mareike Schodder | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>