Melting ice sheets may cause 'climate chaos,' says scientist

James Marshall
February 9, 2019

Dr. Tamsin Edwards, Lecturer in Physical Geography at King's College London, who led the work, explains: "Unstable ice-cliffs in Antarctica were proposed as a cause of the unstoppable collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in the past".

"The weather these days is wild and will be wilder still within a century", reads the opening line of the news release from McGill University.

The collaboration, led by Associate Professor Nick Golledge from Victoria University of Wellington's Antarctic Research Center and involving scientists at GNS Science and from Canada, Britain, Germany and the United States, used climate models to simulate what might happen when water from melting ice sheets enters Earth's oceans.

The collaboration, led by Associate Professor Nick Golledge from Victoria University of Wellington's Antarctic Research Centre and involving scientists at GNS Science and from Canada, the UK, Germany and the United States, used climate models to simulate what might happen when water from melting ice sheets enters Earth's oceans.

"Using the satellite data gives us confidence that the models are performing reliably, and the amounts of ice sheet melt we predict for the future are justified".

The research is reported in the journal Nature. As a result, the researchers have been able to create more reliable and accurate predictions of what will occur under current climate policies. He led the global research team made up of scientists from Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Germany and the USA.

By the end of the century, according to scientists, the Greenland ice sheet meltdown would considerably disrupt AMOC (the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) which has already slowed down more than expected before. "Even if we do include ice-cliff instability, our more thorough assessment shows that the most likely contribution to sea level rise would be less than half a meter by 2100".

By looking at ice losses three-million-years ago, 125,000 years ago, and over the last 25 years in more detail, the team show that unstable ice-cliff collapses aren't needed to reproduce sea level rises in the past.

However, the effects of ice sheet melt are far more widespread than simply leading to changes in sea levels.

More specifically, the disruption of the AMOC would trigger warmer temperatures in the high Arctic, eastern Canada, and Central America, while northwestern Europe would experience cooler temperatures.

According to the researchers, current global climate policies set in place under the Paris Agreement do not take into account the full effects of ice sheet melt likely to be seen in future. Greenland, if it were to melt entirely, would raise the global oceans level by 7 meters, while Antarctica, in case it dissolves completely, would increase sea levels by 58 meters. "But they also show that if we drastically reduce emissions, we can limit future impacts", says Golledge.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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