Using computer models and data collected in the past decade, some climate scientists now believe that a major Antarctica ice sheet is in the process of collapsing.


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Using computer models and data collected in the past decade, some climate scientists now believe that a major Antarctica ice sheet is in the process of collapsing.

One team combined data on the recent retreat of the 182,000-square-kilometer Thwaites Glacier with a model of the glacier’s dynamics to forecast its future. In a paper published online today in Science, they report that in as few as 2 centuries Thwaites Glacier’s outermost edge will recede past an underwater ridge now stalling its retreat. Their modeling suggests that the glacier will then cascade into rapid collapse. The second team, writing in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), describes recent radar mapping of West Antarctica’s glaciers and confirms that the 600-meter-deep ridge is the final obstacle before the bedrock underlying the glacier dips into a deep basin.

Because inland basins connect Thwaites Glacier to other major glaciers in the region, both research teams say its collapse would flood West Antarctica with seawater, prompting a near-complete loss of ice in the area. “The next stable state for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might be no ice sheet at all,” says the Science paper’s lead author, glaciologist Ian Joughin of the University of Washington (UW), Seattle.

This result really falls under the category of the uncertainty of science. Though the data suggests a glacier that is part of the much larger West Antarctica ice sheet is melting, the prediction that the ice sheet itself will collapse sometime in the next two centuries is solely based on computer models that have all too often turned turned out to be wrong.

Share

4 comments

  • Cotour

    Do these people believe that the earth was formed with ice caps in place and that that is the natural and “normal” way that the earth should be and that the existence of humans and their activities threatens this “normal” model? Because that is what it seems that they are saying.

    From human caused global warming to global warming to climate change and now the fourth Permutation? Climate disruption.

    They will get it right eventually.

  • Edward

    Why does it look like just another scare tactic, with the advantage of being able to say, “see, we already passed the tipping point that all those people warned us about”?

    On the other hand, now that it *is* too late to take action, we should stop plan A (cap and trade, Kyoto, etc.) and move on to plan B, adapt to the damage as it arises.

    Christopher Monckton of Brenchley has used the costs and effectiveness of current CO2 emission mitigation attempts (stopping global warming/climate change/whatever) to show that the cost of adapting to the worst-case damage that might occur is far less than preventing that damage in the first place.

    According to Monckton, stopping the effects of global warming (which apparently is now too late) is 36 times more expensive than fixing that damage as it happens, so plan B is less expensive than plan A was.
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/monckton/is_c02_mitigation_cost_effective.html

    The following is a 19-minute video of one of his presentations on this topic. “Focused adaptation is the way to go”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRdjtDQlWZQ

    For those who are gluttons for punishment, this is a 1 hour presentation (followed by 1/2 hour of Tom Tanton, a renewable energy expert) to the California Legislature in March of 2012:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heamMWFQ_qY

  • Cotour

    And now I have to ad this new term, “Climate Chaos” and notify you that apparently the people of earth only officially have 500 days left as per the French and John Kerry.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/french-foreign-minister-500-days-avoid-climate-chaos_792736.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *