- An ice shelf in East Antarctica has collapsed for the first time in human history, according to scientists, as climate change shows no signs of abating.
- The 463-square-mile Glenzer Conger ice shelf collapsed last week as temperatures in the eastern section of Antarctica rose by up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
An ice shelf in East Antarctica has collapsed for the first time in human history, according to scientists, as climate change shows no signs of subsiding.
The 463-square-mile Glenzer Conger ice shelf collapsed last week as temperatures in the eastern section of Antarctica rose by up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. That was enough to cause rain rather than snow to fall in some areas, the Associated Press reported.
NASA satellites first detected the collapse of the ice shelf.
The extreme heat and the collapse of the ice sheet, which helped keep the Conger and Glenzer glaciers from collapsing into warming water, are alarming scientists who previously thought the area was stable — unlike other regions, where fears of glacier collapse could lead to massive sea level rise globally.
“The Glenzer-Conger ice shelf presumably had been there for thousands of years, and it’s not ever going to be there again,” University of Minnesota ice scientist Peter Neff told the AP.
Ice shelves, which extend over water, aid in preventing ice from flowing further inland into the ocean. Global air and water temperatures continue to rise as humans continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
According to the British Antarctic Survey, “upper ocean temperatures to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula have increased over 1°C since 1955.”
“It has now been established that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is warming more rapidly than the global ocean as a whole.”
While most scientists have been focused on the western section of Antarctica, where the Thwaites Glacier, the size of Florida, is in danger of collapsing due to climate change, the discovery that ice in the continent’s eastern section is also in danger of collapsing due to climate change is concerning.
As per the Associated Press, the eastern portion of Antarctica contains more than five times the ice found in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Scientists estimate that if all of the ice in the east melts, sea levels will rise by more than 160 feet.
The good news is that at the current rate of warming, it would take centuries for eastern Antarctica to lose all of its ice.
The bad news is that melting there is exacerbating a problem that scientists believe has already resulted in several feet of sea level rise. What is unknown is how much sea level will rise as a result of melting polar ice caps in the coming decades.