26 Responses to The Antarctic ice sheet hits the fan
The global warming Deniers (and the rest of us) just can’t catch a break: Vast areas of the Antarctic ice sheet — which has 10 times as much ice as Greenland — is losing mass much faster than anyone expected. And the rate of ice loss has quickened in the last decade. In fact, 2007’s ice loss was 75% higher than 2006’s.
Jeez, it’s almost like … I don’t know … the whole friggin’ planet is melting, and we are to blame! If only we had a group of scientists who would, like, report regularly on the impending catastrophe and explain to us how to avoid it….
As the Washington Post reports:
“Without doubt, Antarctica as a whole is now losing ice yearly, and each year it’s losing more,” said Eric Rignot, lead author of a paper published online in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Note to the Washington Post — one of the many, many reasons traditional media are losing eyeballs to the blogosphere is that your embedded hyperlinks go bizarre places, rather than to, say, the study you are citing!
Here is the link to Nature‘s story on the article (note to Nature — uhh, you folks could include a link to the actual study, too). And here, finally, is the link to the article, “Recent Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional climate modelling” by Eric Rignot et al. A subscription is required for the whole article, but the abstract is available:
Large uncertainties remain in the current and future contribution to sea level rise from Antarctica. Climate warming may increase snowfall in the continent’s interior, but enhance glacier discharge at the coast where warmer air and ocean temperatures erode the buttressing ice shelves. Here, we use satellite interferometric synthetic-aperture radar observations from 1992 to 2006 covering 85% of Antarctica’s coastline to estimate the total mass flux into the ocean. We compare the mass fluxes from large drainage basin units with interior snow accumulation calculated from a regional atmospheric climate model for 1980 to 2004. In East Antarctica, small glacier losses in Wilkes Land and glacier gains at the mouths of the Filchner and Ross ice shelves combine to a near-zero loss of 4 +/- 61 Gt yr-1. In West Antarctica, widespread losses along the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas increased the ice sheet loss by 59% in 10 years to reach 132 +/- 60 Gt yr-1 in 2006. In the Peninsula, losses increased by 140% to reach 60 +/- 46 Gt yr-1 in 2006. Losses are concentrated along narrow channels occupied by outlet glaciers and are caused by ongoing and past glacier acceleration. Changes in glacier flow therefore have a significant, if not dominant impact on ice sheet mass balance.
Just for the record, the loss of Greenland’s ice sheet by itself could raise sea levels 20 feet. The West Antarctic ice sheet would add another 20 feet. How fast could it all happen? Pretty darn fast, just going by the last interglacial.
Anybody out there who still believes business-as-usual energy use won’t result in multi-multi-meter sea level?
The time to act is now. If not sooner.
[Yes, my headline looks at first to be a semi-mixed metaphor. Then again, the way the ice is getting chewed up by global warming, maybe not.]