One-third of the Antarctic ice sheet is at risk of collapse due to global warming: A study

New Delhi, April 9 (PTI) Over a third of the surface of the Antarctic ice field could be in danger of collapsing into the sea if global temperatures reach four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the study.

A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that 34 percent of all Antarctic ice shelves – about half a million square kilometers – including 67 percent of the Antarctic ice shelf would be at risk of destabilization in such a warming scenario.

The team also identified Larsen C – the largest remaining ice sheet on the peninsula, which split to form the huge A68 iceberg in 2017 – as one of four ice shelves that would be particularly vulnerable in warmer climates.

‘Ice shelves are important fences that prevent glaciers on land from freely entering the ocean and contributing to rising sea levels,’ said Ella Gilbert of the University of Reading in the UK.

“When they collapse, it’s like a huge cork being taken out of a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water from the glacier to pour into the sea,” Gilbert said.

The researchers noted that limiting the temperature rise to two, not four degrees Celsius, would halve the area at risk and potentially avoid a significant rise in sea level.

They noticed that when melted ice accumulates on the surface of ice shelves, it can lead to their cracking and spectacular collapse.

Previous research has provided scientists with a broader picture in terms of predicting the fall of the Antarctic ice field.

However, the new study uses the latest modeling techniques to fill in finer details and provide more accurate projections.

‘The findings highlight the importance of limiting global temperature increases as set out in the Paris Agreement if we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, including rising sea levels,’ Gilbert said.

The study used state-of-the-art high-resolution regional climate modeling to predict in more detail the impact of increased melting and water runoff on ice sheet stability.

The team said that the vulnerability of the ice field due to this breaking process was predicted under global warming scenarios of 1.5, 2 and 4 degrees Celsius, which are all possible this century.

Ice shelves are permanent floating ice platforms attached to areas of the shoreline and formed where glaciers flowing from the mainland meet the sea, they said.

Researchers have identified the ice shelves of Larsen C, Shackleton, Pine Island and Wilkins as the most endangered below four degrees Celsius due to warming, due to their geography and the significant runoff of water projected in these areas.

“If temperatures continue to rise at current speeds, we could lose more Antarctic ice shelves in the coming decades,” Gilbert added. PTI SAR SAR

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