"Ice sheets can collapse into the ocean in spurts of up to 600 metres (2,000
feet) a day, a study has found, far faster than recorded before.
Scientists said the finding, based on sea floor sediment formations from the
last ice age, was a “warning from the past” for today’s world in which the
climate crisis is eroding ice sheets.
They said the discovery shows that some ice sheets in Antarctica, including the
“Doomsday” Thwaites glacier, could suffer periods of rapid collapse in the near
future, further accelerating the rise of sea level.
The rising oceans are among the greatest long-term impacts of global heating
because hundreds of major cities around the world are on coastlines and are
increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding. The West Antarctic ice
sheet may already have passed the point at which major losses are unstoppable,
which will lead eventually to metres of sea level rise.
“Our research provides a warning from the past about the speeds that ice sheets
are physically capable of retreating at,” said Dr Christine Batchelor at
Newcastle University in the UK, who led the research. “It shows that pulses of
rapid retreat can be far quicker than anything we’ve seen so far.”
“These pulses translate into sea level rise and could be really important for
sea defences,” she said. The rate of loss was critical if, for example, a rise
expected over 200 years could actually occur in 20 years, Batchelor said. The
research could also be used to enable computer models to make better
predictions about future ice loss."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics