Advanced Search
Current and Breaking News for Professionals, Consumers and Media



Click here to learn how to advertise on this site and for ad rates.

Environment Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Aug 14, 2014 - 7:59:39 PM



Antarctica's Melting and its Impact on Coastlines

By Staff Editor
Aug 14, 2014 - 7:52:37 PM



Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Ezine
For Email Marketing you can trust


Email this article
 Printer friendly page

(HealthNewsDigest.com) - The Antarctic continent, roughly the size of the United States and Mexico combined, is composed of rock covered by glaciers some 16,000 feet thick. The glaciers form from fallen snow compacting into successive layers of ice, and they eventually move downhill toward the coasts and "calve" into the ocean as icebergs and eventually melt out into the sea. Antarctica and Greenland combined hold about 99 percent of the globe's freshwater ice.

According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, the result of the entire Antarctic continent melting out completely would be sea level rise of about 200 feet around the world, which could in turn lead to untold devastation. While no one can be sure how hot things will get as a result of global warming, most climate models don't forecast conditions hot enough to cause the wholesale melt-out of Antarctica.

In fact, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) reports that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which constitutes about two-thirds of the world's southernmost and iciest continent, is remaining relatively stable, with some slight melting that is balanced out by new winter snows. Because East Antarctica rests on rock that is higher than sea level, it is unlikely to collapse. In fact, East Antarctica's ice cover may thicken moving forward due to predicted increases in snowfall amounts over the coming decades.

But on the west side of Antarctica, ice across an area roughly the size of Texas called the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) is already thinning rapidly in large part as a result of surrounding waters warming up due to changing ocean circulation patterns.  Many scientists believe that these ocean changes are happening as a result of human-induced global warming as well as thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer.

"This is an area that has always caused glaciologists concern, because here the bedrock beneath the ice is a long way below sea-level and the ice is only kept in place because it is thick enough to rest on the bed," reports BAS. "Thinning of the ice around the coast could lead to glacier acceleration and further thinning of the ice sheet. Essentially, the ice sheet may be unstable, and the recent pattern of thinning could be a precursor to wholesale loss of the ASE ice sheet."

Meanwhile, researchers from NASA and UC Irvine studying the ASE ice sheet report a "continuous and rapid retreat" of glaciers there and think that there is "no [major] obstacle that would prevent the glaciers from further retreat." They worry that within a millennium and perhaps as soon as two centuries, the ASE could melt out entirely-leading to between four and 10 feet of sea level rise around the world-if moderate warming models prove to be correct.

Of course, we can all play a role in preventing such scenarios by reducing our carbon footprints. Take fewer airplane trips. Buy organic food. Walk, bike or take public transit to work. If you must drive, get a hybrid or electric car. Wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat. And urge legislators to push new laws that limit greenhouse gas emissions by industry, utilities and other big polluters. It may be now or never.

CONTACTS: National Snow & Ice Data Center, nsidc.org; British Antarctic Survey, www.antarctica.ac.uk.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: [email protected]

###

For ad rates, call Mike McCurdy at 877-634-9180 or email at [email protected]  We have over 7,000 journalists who are subscribers.



Top of Page

HealthNewsDigest.com

Environment
Latest Headlines


+ Reusing Greywater At Home
+ Assessing the Risks of Genetically Engineered Crops
+ Antarctic Polar Ice is Melting
+ Volunteers Get Ready for Audubon Christmas Bird Count
+ Raking Leaves This Fall - Tips to Prevent Injury
+ Why Plants Don't Get Sunburn
+ A Fireball in Space Reveals the Nature of Novae
+ Sweden's Environmental Leadership
+ Artificial Turf Issues
+ Dinosaur Breathing Study: Noses Enhanced Smelling and Cooled Brain



Contact Us | Job Listings | Help | Site Map | About Us
Advertising Information | HND Press Release | Submit Information | Disclaimer

Site hosted by Sanchez Productions