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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Antarctic Ice Sheet at Risk?

Any of you that have followed my blog for long know that I am a climate warming skeptic--at least to the extent that I believe that global warming theories and "doomsday" predictions are driven more by politics and ideology than science. But I feel I would be remiss if I didn't throw in something from the other side once in a while. MSNBC has this report concerning the Antarctic ice sheet:
Scientists have long focused on Antarctica’s smaller ice sheet as being vulnerable to warming, but two new studies project that part of the continent's much larger ice sheet is also at risk -- and that ice now held back on land there could add to sea level rise by 2100.

"This is the first legitimate evidence that this part of Antarctica is in play," Bob Bindschadler, a NASA earth scientist who has studied Antarctica for 30 years, told msnbc.com. "The potential, the reservoir of ice ... is vast."

* * *
One study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, used a computer model to project what would happen in Antarctica's Weddell Sea if temperatures rose in line with U.N. projections for 2100.

The result was a change in ocean circulation and a temperature increase that would disintegrate the now-intact Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf, with warmer water eating away from underneath.

Ice shelves like Ronne-Filchner sit on water, and thus their disintegration can't raise sea levels directly. But they also hold back ice sheets that sit atop land -- and those would start to drain into the sea if shelves weren't there to block them.

* * *

Just how much ice could escape into the sea -- and raise global sea levels -- if the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf disintegrated is the big unknown.

The two studies didn't look at that aspect but "we think there is cause for concern," said Martin Siegert, co-author of the slope study and a University of Edinburgh researcher.
Sorry, but I can't resist: The unanswered question of how much sea levels could rise is a question for the next funding cycle....

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