A new study shows that a major Antarctic glacier has likely passed its tipping point, putting it on track to lose 50 percent of its ice in 100 years. Such a loss is estimated to raise global sea levels by 24 centimeters (9.4 inches), according to the study published in the Proceedings of Royal Society A.
Based on computer modeling, the study found that Pine Island glacier probably passed the point of no return in 1996 due to warming in the Amundsen Sea caused by climate change. If Thwaite’s Glacier, which sits adjacent to Pine Island glacier, also passes the tipping point sea levels could rise 52 centimeters (20.5 inches) in total.
Researchers admit that the computer modeling is a simplified version of the physics of glaciers, but if anything, they told New Scientist, their findings underestimated the rate at which the glacier will melt.
“Ours is a simple model of an ice sheet that neglects some important physics,” lead author Richard Katz told New Scientist. “The take-home message is that we should be concerned about tipping points in West Antarctica and we should do a lot more work to investigate.”
Satellite imagery in 2004 revealed that Pine Island glacier was already melting 25 percent faster than 30 years before.
Citation: Richard Katz, M. Grae Worster. Stability of ice-sheet grounding lines Proceedings of the Royal Society A. DOI: 10.1098/rspa.2009.0434.
(11/02/2009) The most recent survey among the ice fields atop Mount Kilimanjaro found that the ice atop Africa’s most famous mountain could be gone in twenty years—and maybe even sooner. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science the study was conducted by a team of researchers who first measured the glaciers in 2000. They discovered that between 1912 and 2007, 85 percent of the ice that covered Mount Kilimanjaro vanished. When using 2000 as baseline the mountain has lost 26 percent of its ice.
(01/30/2009) Glaciers worldwide lost ice mass for the 18th consecutive year due to warming temperatures and reduce snowfall, reports the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service. Alpine glaciers lost on average 1.3 meters of thickness in 2006 and 0.7 meters in 2007, extending an 11.3-meter (36-foot) retreat since 1980.
(12/17/2008) Sea levels will rise faster than previously estimated due to rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, according to a U.S government report released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The report, titled Abrupt Climate Change, incorporates research published since last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which drew largely from studies dating up to 2006. Most significantly, Abrupt Climate Change suggests that IPCC estimates for future sea level rise (18-58 cm) are conservative, noting that recent observations on sea level rise and loss of sea ice are far outpacing previous projections.