West Antarctic ice collapse may be prevented by snowing ocean water onto it

phys.org | 7/12/2019 | Staff
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Red frame marks the area where the snowing would take place. Credit: Fig. from Levermann et al 2019.

A team of researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is now scrutinising a daring way of stabilising the ice sheet: Generating trillions of tons of additional snowfall by pumping ocean water onto the glaciers and distributing it with snow canons. This would mean unprecedented engineering efforts and a substantial environmental hazard in one of the world's last pristine regions—to prevent long-term sea level rise for some of the world's most densely populated areas along coastlines from the US to China.

Trade-off - Humanity - Antarctica - Regions - Heritage

"The fundamental trade-off is whether we as humanity want to sacrifice Antarctica to safe the currently inhabited coastal regions and the cultural heritage that we have built and are building on our shores. It is about global metropolises, from New York to Shanghai, which in the long term will be below sea level if nothing is done" explains Anders Levermann, physicist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Columbia University and one of the authors of the study. "The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is one of the tipping elements in our climate system. Ice loss is accelerating and might not stop until the West Antarctic ice sheet is practically gone."

Warm ocean currents have reached the Amundsen Sea Sector of West Antarctica—a region comprising several glaciers that are prone to instability due to their topographic configuration. Underwater melting of these glaciers triggered their speed-up and retreat. This is already now responsible for the largest ice loss from the continent and provides an accelerating contribution to global sea level rise. In their study, the researchers employ computer simulations to project the dynamic ice loss into the future. They confirm earlier studies suggesting that even strong reduction of greenhouse gas...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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