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Irreversible Ice Melt in West Antarctica: New Study

Why is it in the news?

  • According to a new study, the rapid melting of West Antarctica’s ice sheet is now inevitable due to warm waters surrounding it.
  • This melting will continue even if global carbon emissions are significantly reduced.

About the Study and its Key findings

  • The study titled ‘Unavoidable future increase in West Antarctic ice-shelf melting over the twenty-first century’ was published in the journal Nature. It was conducted by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Northumbria University.
  • The study particularly examines the Amundsen Sea region in West Antarctica, where ice shelves have been depleting, glaciers flowing faster towards the ocean, and the ice sheet shrinking.
  • The analysis utilized a high-resolution computer model to simulate different scenarios of ocean warming and ice-shelf melting in the Amundsen Sea throughout the 21st century. The findings indicate that significant warming and ice-shelf melting are expected, regardless of emissions scenarios, at least until 2045.
  • Even in a best-case scenario of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the waters around West Antarctica are projected to warm three times faster than in the 20th century, leading to increased ice sheet melting.
  • If West Antarctica’s ice sheet completely melts, it could raise global mean sea levels by 5.3 meters (17.4 feet). This poses a severe threat to coastal cities worldwide, including those in India.
  • Further, vulnerable communities may face displacement or become refugees if they cannot defend against sea-level rise.
路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Ice sheets, like the one in West Antarctica, cover vast areas and contain a significant portion of Earth’s freshwater. They play a crucial role in influencing global sea levels.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Ice shelves, which are the edges of ice sheets that float on the ocean, play a role in stabilizing land-based glaciers. When warm ocean waters melt ice shelves, it can lead to the acceleration of glaciers and contribute to rising sea levels.

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