11,000-year-old Antarctic ice gone in 10 years

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

As glaciers melt, sea levels rise, reducing the amount of land available in regions close to sea level.

NASA scientists recently reported that sea levels are rising because of rapidly melting water from glaciers – slowly moving masses of ice. In fact, Antarctica has lost a Mount Everest’s worth of ice due to global warming! Now, they say an ancient Antarctic ice shelf that’s about 11,000 years old will vanish within a decade.

As pollution builds, trapping heat inside Earth like a greenhouse building that keeps plants warm, our world will continue to experience dramatic temperature shifts. The atmosphere, which usually offers a protective layer that shields our planet from solar radiation (powerful energy waves), is losing its effectiveness. See, increasing greenhouse gases are holding onto the Sun’s heat and spreading it around, causing global warming. Not only is this hotter climate leading to chaotic weather patterns by sending frosty temperatures southward for crazy winters, it’s also melting massive ice sheets at alarming rates. The retreating ice in the Amundsen sea sector of West Antarctica, for example, appears to be unstoppable at this point, and its disappearance will collapse the rest of the ice sheet.

This will result in a sea level rise of 3-5 meters, forcing millions of people worldwide to abandon their homes. To put the Amundsen sea sector’s size into perspective, it’s almost as big as France, with six glaciers stretching a total of 300 miles draining into it. In just 200 years, a huge fraction of the Antarctic glaciers will be gone, partially as a result of ocean heat being pushed by winds called “westerlies”. These stronger westerlies are created by the world warming faster than a cooling Antarctica, which causes a shift in their directions and intensity. Basically, deep warm waters are being shoved northward, and the westerlies are more powerful now than any other time in the past 1,000 years!

One of the huge chunks of ice that’s fading fast is the Larsen B ice shelf, which has been around between 11,000 and 12,000 years. It measures about 625 square miles and gets as deep as 500 meters at its thickest point. To put that into perspective, you can fit about 484 football fields in 1 square mile! And this is one of the “smaller” northern ice shelves…

Images courtesy of NASA.