Space & Science

Why Antarctica’s ice shelves, the size of countries are breaking? Is this the indication of global warming?

Source: Sputnik International

The disintegration of the massive iceberg in Antarctica, the continent on the South Pole, has sounded a global alarm, accounting for much discussion and research. Weighing almost trillion tonnes, the ice berg, as huge as the size twice of Luxembourg, has broken off an ice-shelf in the Antarctic headland and ever since was drifting in the Weddell Sea in the coasts of the Peninsula. The broken iceberg is believed to be among the ten largest ever recorded.

The giant crack that had already spawned the iceberg to grow over a long period reached its highest rift rate in June 2017 and accelerated its movement by almost 10 metres per day before collapsing. Since 2010, Larsen C, the 4th largest ice shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula has been ripping away.

HT-Rift-figure-Jan2017 Source: ABC News

The most probing aspect of the crackdown of the iceberg was the revelation that the iceberg has rifted several times before crumpling. Currently, it is driven by a wave that travels slower than the expected speed of 690 kmh and has the potential to circumnavigate the whole continent within a couple of days. Researchers at the glaciology department at Swansea University, focussed on studying the condition of the ice-shelf, have reported that the big ice chunk that is afloat may fracture further.

This could possibly hasten the rate at which glaciers move into the sea. The western edge of the Antarctic Peninsula has been experiencing the highest rates of glacial ice loss, evoking profound interest in the scientist community. Some experts have expressed that transport of the warm off-shore water onto the shelf, is causing the ice-shelf to melt at a higher speed along the western coast. It is assumed that the remote winds blowing in the opposite direction of Antarctica could be a reason for substantial heating of the subsurface, resulting in warming of the peninsular. Climate change across the globe could be causing the East Antarctic winds to strengthen, where the strong westerlies move over the southern ocean affecting the winds near the ice-covered continent to melt.

Source: Daily Mail

Satellite images released by the European Union’s Copernicus Program reveal that pieces of the ice-sheet are beginning to appear near A68’s perimeter, with newer cracks developing further. On the Antarctica, the remaining iceberg, referred to as Larsen C, is simultaneously showing splinting strains. The Larsen A and B ice shelves, situated north on the Antarctica region had collapsed earlier in January 1995 and 2002 respectively, resulting in dramatic speed up of the glaciers following them, where larger ice volumes entered the ocean and elevated the sea-level. Larsen A was absent for a long period undergoing reformation about 4000 years ago, while Larsen B was observed to be stable for at least 10,000 years. The warm currents, higher oceanic temperatures made these the global warming hotspots.

While researches have debated over the issue of climate change affecting the Antarctic margins, the geological processes have been interpreted differently by scholars. In the ensuing decade, the ice shelf might either grow or suffer calving actions leading to further breakdown.

The-biggest-iceberg-of-Antarctic-Glacier-Source: forcetoknow

Recent studies, estimate that Antarctica could immensely contribute to the rising sea-level, elevating it by almost a metre through 2100. The forecast of this disastrous condition could wreak havoc for coastal belts and displace millions of people across the world. It is significant to understand the possible global dangers that the Antarctic condition can harbor in future. Some of the consequences could be:

  • The world sea level will significantly rise, impeding the coastal and low-lying regions which will become uninhabited over time
  • The significant glacier melting around the Antarctic region could add 15 metre of sea level by 2500.
  • Over hundreds of years, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets may soon disappear completely, if the green-house emissions are not controlled.

Rapid action to address this worldwide destruction caused by impact of global warming is the immediate focus. Production of green-house gases also contribute to the perils of raising se-levels, allowing global warming to exceed rapidly. Slowing down the temperature rise, monitoring southern storm trajectories are expected by scientists to bring a positive change. These necessary interventions can gradually slacken the melting impact in western Antarctica, increasing the chance of stabilizing ice-sheet disintegration.

Article by Rochita.

Why Antarctica’s ice shelves, the size of countries are breaking? Is this the indication of global warming?


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