NOV 24, 2021 3:30 PM PST

Antarctica Might Melt for a Millennium

WRITTEN BY: Matthew Lundy

Climate change is causing a rapid decline in the ice surrounding the South Pole, and new research highlights that this might trigger a centuries-long phase of ice retreat. A study recently published in Nature Communications looks at past melting periods of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) to learn about what current melting might entail. The researchers found that multiple melting phases in the past destabilized the world’s largest ice sheet in as short a time as a decade. These rapid retreats were then responsible for “contributing to global sea-level rise for centuries to a millennium” before the AIS re-stabilized.

The international team of researchers analyzed the possible future of the AIS and found a host of variables supporting the possibility of long-term melting. These range from evidence of ice retreat in similar past events to modern-day tipping point analysis. A tipping point would be a threshold of change past which there is no immediate way to return to the prior state. In this case, the AIS could reach a point of ice retreat due to warming that continues even if global temperatures were brought back down to pre-warming levels. The melting would become self-propagating and continue regardless of lower temperature; the tipping point would have been reached.

If climate change-induced warming can destabilize the natural systems and waters around Western Antarctica, the study notes that the ice sheet “is projected to irrevocably contribute at least 3 m to [global mean sea-level rise] on centennial- to millennial-scales.” While this would occur over long periods of time, it would be in addition to sea-level rise from other sources. The tandem increase in water levels could spell disaster for coastal cities and communities. Such tragic possibility should motivate even greater climate mitigation action, or else we and dozens of future generations may suffer from centuries-long “self-sustaining and irreversible ice-sheet retreat.”

 

Source: Nature Communications

About the Author
MSc in Science Communication, BS in Astrophysics and Philosophy
Science communicator passionate about physics, space, and our, unfortunately, changing climate; exploring the universe through written word and the occasional video.
You May Also Like
MAR 06, 2022
Plants & Animals
Does Your Pet's Food Have Endangered Shark In It? DNA Technology Can Tell.
MAR 06, 2022
Does Your Pet's Food Have Endangered Shark In It? DNA Technology Can Tell.
Sharks play crucial roles in marine ecosystems. As predators, they loom large at the top of many marine food chains and ...
APR 12, 2022
Microbiology
Thousands of Novel RNA Viruses Found In Ocean Water Samples
APR 12, 2022
Thousands of Novel RNA Viruses Found In Ocean Water Samples
Microbes have colonized every part of the world, including our bodies, and there are so may we know nothing about. Advan ...
APR 18, 2022
Microbiology
Earth's Oldest Life Forms May be Over 4 Billion Years Old!
APR 18, 2022
Earth's Oldest Life Forms May be Over 4 Billion Years Old!
We've learned a lot about life that came before us by studying fossils. The ancestry and evolution of ancient microbial ...
MAY 01, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Plastic-eating enzyme could prevent plastic waste world domination
MAY 01, 2022
Plastic-eating enzyme could prevent plastic waste world domination
Plastics are a part of our everyday lives, from food containers to soda bottles to soap dispensers to the life-saving ve ...
MAY 23, 2022
Plants & Animals
Dolphins Use Coral to Treat Skin Conditions
MAY 23, 2022
Dolphins Use Coral to Treat Skin Conditions
According to a new research study published in iScience, specific species of dolphins can experience skin irritation or ...
MAY 26, 2022
Technology
What is LiDAR? How Archaeologists See Through Forests to Find Ancient Ruins
MAY 26, 2022
What is LiDAR? How Archaeologists See Through Forests to Find Ancient Ruins
LiDAR, archaeologists joke that it’s ‘the dream’ when approaching large-scale field surveys, especiall ...
Loading Comments...