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February 25, 2019

The planet’s nightmare

Opinion

February 25, 2019

The planet’s biggest nightmare is coming to life. It may be a bigger threat much sooner than ever before realized simply because it’s accelerating!

East Antarctica, the world’s largest body of water trapped in ice, is knocking the socks off expectations. Along the way, it’s the world’s most horrifying surprise, yet nobody really knows how it will play out because the science is still in early stages.

Nevertheless, a formidable issue is at hand: Vincennes Bay in East Antarctica is home to humongous glaciers, like Totten Glacier (2,400 square miles), which is the largest glacier in the bay and equivalent to at least 11 feet of sea level rise alone, but it is only one of several glaciers in Vincennes Bay.

Recent NASA research indicates that four glaciers west of Totten Glacier in Vincennes Bay have receded by 9 feet since 2008. Heretofore, there was no measured change in these glaciers… period!

Surprisingly, within one decade there’s measurable loss of 9 feet after years and decades and centuries upon centuries of East Antarctica stability. This is disturbing and begs the question of what if the melting accelerates more, and more, and keeps on accelerating more than previous rates of acceleration. Then what?

According to NASA: “East Antarctica has the potential to reshape coastlines around the world through sea level rise, but scientists have long considered it more stable than its neighbor, West Antarctica. Now, new detailed NASA maps of ice velocity and elevation show that a group of glaciers spanning one-eighth of East Antarctica’s coast have begun to lose ice over the past decade, hinting at widespread changes in the ocean.” (Source: More Glaciers in East Antarctica Are Waking Up, NASA, Dec. 10, 2018).

Additionally, and in the opposite direction, or east of Totten Glacier, a “collection of glaciers” doubled their rate of ice loss since 2009. By all appearances, the past 10 years has served to alter East Antarctica into early stages of a meltdown phase. As previously mentioned, this is an unexpected event.

Meanwhile, for some time now at the opposite side of the continent, West Antarctica has been in the grip of rapid breakdown. In fact, Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is one of the fastest-flowing ice streams on the planet.

For example, Pine Island Glacier is dispensing icebergs into the Amundsen Sea from ice shelves with increasing frequency, which is troubling, to say the least. The most recent, Iceberg B-46 (87 sq. miles) split off in October 2018. Pine Island Glacier (equal to 1.7 feet of sea level rise) shed icebergs in 2001, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

Ice shelves are floating ice sheets that do not contribute much to rising sea levels since they are already mostly afloat, thus displacing their own weight. They extend out over the water from icy landmasses but significantly, as a matter of course, serve as a backstop or physical barrier of ice sheets, holding back rapid glacial ice flow into ocean waters.

Therefore, losing ice shelves out of the ordinary in rapid succession is obviously an ominous signal of trouble dead ahead, meaning glacial ice flow that directly impacts sea levels is freed-up, up and away.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘Global Warming’s

Monster Awakens’.

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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