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Scientists generally have believed that since the end of the last Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has been getting smaller and smaller, with its retreat triggered by a warming world and sea-level rise from collapse of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets.
A study published online June 13, 2018 in the journal Nature shows a more complicated history.
Data - Modeling - Suggest - Years - Ice
Surprising new data and ice-sheet modeling suggest that between roughly 14,500 and 9,000 years ago, the ice sheet below sea level partially melted and shrunk to a size even smaller than today—but it did not collapse. Over the subsequent millennia, the loss of the massive amount of ice that was previously weighing down the seabed spurred uplift in the sea floor—a process known as isostatic rebound. Then the ice sheet began to regrow toward today's configuration.
"The WAIS today is again retreating, but there was a time since the last Ice Age when the ice sheet was even smaller than it is now, yet it didn't collapse," said Northern Illinois University geology professor Reed Scherer, a lead author on the study. "That's important information to have as we try to figure out how the ice sheet will behave in the future."
Rebound - Panacea - Sea - Level
Don't count on isostatic rebound, however, to be a panacea for modern-day rising sea level, he added.
"What happened roughly 10,000 years ago might not dictate where we're going in our carbon dioxide-enhanced world, where the oceans are rapidly warming in the polar regions. If the ice sheet were to dramatically retreat now, triggered by anthropogenic warming, the uplift process won't help regrow the ice sheet until long after coastal cities have felt the effects of the sea level rise."
Scherer - Authors - Study - Jonathan - Kingslake
Scherer is one of three lead authors on the study, along with Jonathan Kingslake of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Torsten...
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