Research: Ocean waves following sea ice loss trigger Antarctic ice shelf collapse

Before 2012, ice loss held steady at 76 billion tonnes (approximately 83.78 billion US tons) per year, for 0.2 millimeters (approximately 0.008 inches) of sea level rise. In a study released Wednesday, June 13, 2018, an global team of ice experts said the melting of Antarctica is accelerating at an alarming rate, with about 3 trillion tons of ice disappearing since 1992. 55 kilometres long, has been losing roughly five metres of thickness per year over the last 25 years.

Nature has used more satellite data than any other investigation of Antarctica to derive to such conclusion.

The video below, a time-lapse footage provided by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in Tasmania, reveals the impact of large ocean waves as they batter the Antarctic ice shelf, triggering the collapse of a significant, previously weakened area which had already experienced fracturing.

Ice loss of 2.7 trillion tonnes since 1992 added about eight millimetres to sea level.

An accelerating thaw of Antarctica has pushed up world sea levels by nearly a centimeter since the early 1990s in a risk for coasts from Pacific islands to Florida, an global team of scientists said on Thursday.

The Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest-flowing in Antarctica. This information, along with the previous assessment done in 2012, is key to understanding how climate change is affecting the most remote part of the planet, and in understanding the effects of the changes in the Antarctic ice sheet and the rise in sea levels.

Rising sea levels pose a major threat to ecosystems, coastal areas and climate as a whole. Over that period, West Antarctica's ice loss rate has risen from 53 billion metric tons per year to 159 metric tons annually.

East Antarctica is losing ice at a relatively smaller rate of 31 tonnes per year since 2012. Thanks to the satellites that our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea-level contribution with confidence. West Antarctica is where most of the thawing has taken place, but that does not mean that East Antarctica is doing any better.

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"Based on this evidence from the Pliocene, today's current carbon dioxide levels are not enough to destabilize the land-based ice on the Antarctic continent", said Jeremy Shakun, lead author of this paper and assistant professor of earth and environmental science at U.S. Boston College.

"This study is more evidence that the warming effects of climate change are impacting our planet in ways that are often more risky than we perhaps had thought", said Dow.

In the worst case scenario, Antarctica would contribute 27 centimeters (approximately 10.63 inches) to global sea level rise, for a total sea level rise of more than a meter (approximately 3.28 feet).

Antarctica is covered by ice sheets that get channelled into the oceans through a network of ice streams and glaciers and the continent has seen a reduction in the extent of floating ice shelves.

Oceans are now rising by 3.4 millimetres (0.13 inches) per year. Ice, thick enough in many places to bury mountains, covers a continent roughly the size of the USA and Mexico combined.

Continuing high emissions could deliver massive sea level rise - but strong compliance with the Paris climate agreement, while unable to stop changes happening now, could help to control how much they worsen.

The findings could have serious implications for sea level rise over the coming century, the scientist said.

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