Monday, January 14, 2008

Antarctica's Melting, Too

Link from Slate:
The Washington Post also fronts news that melting is increasing in Antarctica in areas that scientists had presumed would be safe for a time, raising the possibility of significant sea level rise if the trend continues.
The story makes it sound as if the IPCC sort of felt Climate Change would save Antarctica for when it had done melting all the other ice.

The new finding comes days after the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the group's next report should look at the "frightening" possibility that ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could melt rapidly at the same time.

"Both Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheet are huge bodies of ice and snow, which are sitting on land," said Rajendra Pachauri, chief of the IPCC, the United Nations' scientific advisory group. "If, through a process of melting, they collapse and are submerged in the sea, then we really are talking about sea-level rises of several meters." (A meter is about a yard.) Last year, the IPCC tentatively estimated that sea levels would rise by eight inches to two feet by the end of the century, assuming no melting in West Antarctica.

And, you know, there's always a mechanism. I'm free to make broad qualitative statements whereas scientists always need mechanism, if you were wondering how I was so far ahead of the curve.
"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.

The Antarctic ice sheet is shrinking despite land temperatures for the continent remaining essentially unchanged, except for the fast-warming peninsula.

The cause, Rignot said, may be changes in the flow of the warmer water of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that circles much of the continent. Because of changed wind patterns and less-well-understood dynamics of the submerged current, its water is coming closer to land in some sectors and melting the edges of glaciers deep underwater.

"Something must be changing the ocean to trigger such changes," said Rignot, a senior scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We believe it is related to global climate forcing."
It seems like he's going out on a limb here, right?

Anyway, growing horror in others always makes me feel a little less isolated, so it's nice to see.

Update: And by the way?
Ohio State University professor Lonnie Thompson ... described a significant speed-up in the melting of high-altitude glaciers [on] Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya.
Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. There are foothills in Kenya, but I don't think they're glaciated.

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