News You Really Need To See: “Pace of Antarctic Melt Sets Off Alarm”

“Pace of Antarctic Melt Sets Off Alarm”

The Washington Post, December 5, 2014, p.A1

“For two decades, scientists have kept a close watch on a vast, icebound corner of West Antarctica that is undergoing a historic thaw.  Climate experts have predicted that, centuries from now, the region’s mile-thick ice sheet could collapse and raise sea levels as much as 11 feet.  Now, new evidence is causing concern that the collapse could happen faster than anyone thought.  New scientific studies this week have shed light on the speed and the mechanics of West Antarctic melting, documenting an acceleration that, if it continues, could have major effects on coastal cities worldwide.  Twin papers this week show that the rate of ice loss from West Antarctica is increasing — with the acceleration particularly pronounced in the past decade — and also why this is happening: Warmer ocean waters are pushing up from below and bathing the base of the ice sheet. … It often has been speculated that West Antarctica may be the most unstable of the world’s great ice sheets, a group that also includes the still-larger Greenland and the massive East Antarctica.  And research published in May suggested that for the oceanfront glaciers of West Antarctica, held in place by moorings at the seafloor, a point of no return already may have been reached. … The great ice sheets of the world, like West Antarctica, are so massive that, at present, they exert a gravitational pull on the surrounding ocean, which slopes upward toward them.  However, the loss of West Antarctica would lead to less gravitational pull and more water spreading out across the ocean — a secondary effect that would further contribute to sea-level rise worldwide.”

Quickie Analysis:  This feedback loop has particularly disturbing, global implications.  Unless you live inland and always wanted ocean view property.

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