New study projects that melting of Antarctic ice shelves will intensify

October 12, 2015, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Antarctic lake
Antarctic lake. Image credit: British Antarctica Survey.

New research published today projects a doubling of surface melting of Antarctic ice shelves by 2050 and that by 2100 melting may surpass intensities associated with ice shelf collapse, if greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel consumption continue at the present rate.

Ice shelves are the floating extensions of the continent's massive land-based sheets. While the or breakup of floating ice shelves does not directly raise sea level, ice shelves do have a "door stop" effect: They slow the flow of ice from glaciers and ice sheets into the ocean, where it melts and raises sea levels.

"Our results illustrate just how rapidly melting in Antarctica can intensify in a warming climate," said Luke Trusel, lead author and postdoctoral scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). "This has already occurred in places like the Antarctic Peninsula where we've observed warming and abrupt ice shelf collapses in the last few decades. Our model projections show that similar levels of melt may occur across coastal Antarctica near the end of this century, raising concerns about future ice shelf stability."

The study, published Oct. 12, 2015, in Nature Geoscience, was conducted by Trusel, Clark University Associate Professor of Geography Karen Frey, WHOI scientists Sarah Das and Kristopher Karnauskas, Peter Kuipers Munneke and Michiel R. van den Broeke of the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht University, and Erik van Meijgaard of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

To study how melting evolves over time and to predict future melting along the entire Antarctic coastline, the scientists combined satellite observations of ice surface melting with climate model simulations under scenarios of intermediate and high levels of until the year 2100.

The results indicate a strong potential for the doubling of Antarctica-wide ice sheet surface melting by 2050, under either emissions scenario. However, between 2050 and 2100, the models reveal a significant divergence between the two scenarios. Under the high-emissions climate scenario, by 2100 ice sheet surface melting approaches or exceeds intensities associated with ice shelf collapse in the past. Under the reduced-emissions scenario, there is relatively little increase in ice sheet melting after the doubling in 2050.

"The data presented in this study clearly show that climate policy, and therefore the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, have an enormous control over the future fate of surface melting of Antarctic , which we must consider when assessing their long-term stability and potential indirect contributions to sea level rise," said Frey.

Explore further: The warmer the higher: Sea-level rise from Filchner-Ronne ice in Antarctica

More information: Divergent trajectories of Antarctic surface melt under two twenty-first-century climate scenarios, Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2563

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plasmasrevenge
3 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2015
There is never any doubt what the projections will say. Is the world really this predictable? Are the models really this predictive? If you take many of the climate science authors at their own word, the point of the models is to advocate for change. It's almost as if the models themselves are simply a message at this point.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2015
The models are coal mine canaries.
Shootist
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 12, 2015
The models are coal mine canaries.


Dyson: Climate models are rubbish
More science, less hysteria please

"The fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated," writes Dyson in his book _Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe._

He pours scorn on "the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models".

http://www.thereg...eresies/

jeffensley
2.5 / 5 (8) Oct 12, 2015
There is never any doubt what the projections will say. Is the world really this predictable? Are the models really this predictive? If you take many of the climate science authors at their own word, the point of the models is to advocate for change. It's almost as if the models themselves are simply a message at this point.


It's why many of us are skeptical... the issue has long ago left the realm of science and become about politics.

gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2015
jeff, the issue was politicized by the Filthy Fuel owners and producers, to stop us from saving the Earth which might cost them money.

http://scienceblo...nd-when/

http://graphics.l...-arctic/

http://www.newyor...e-change

It was pure hateful greed, and a conspiracy which cost us lives. What are we going to do about it?

Nothing, . . they own our politicians.
Antonaccio
4 / 5 (8) Oct 12, 2015
Why is Freeman Dyson so popular in these arguments? Other than supporting your biases, what has he done to improve our understanding of Climate other than saying he doesn't understand it?
dogbert
2.5 / 5 (8) Oct 12, 2015
The models cannot predict what is happening now. How is anyone supposed to believe that they can predict 35 years and 85 years into the future?

People who encourage climate hysteria must have very stable jobs.
Antonaccio
4 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2015
@Jeffensley

I don't think it's possible to prevent this from going to politics. It's a global issue where political legislation is going to be a significant factor in determining how we deal with Climate Change. It was the same situation with leaded gasoline. Science said no and money pushed back. Just because this issue has entered the realm of politics doesn't mean it's any less relevant.
antigoracle
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2015
It's funny how poor GloBULL warming can only heat the ocean in Antarctica where there is strong geothermal activity.
Tangent2
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 12, 2015
Why don't most models go past 2100 AD? Do the scientists only care about what happens during their lifetime only? Considering how concerning the situation is.. it would be smart to further project and see what happens.
Returners
1 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2015
Nothing, . . they own our politicians.


I don't know...it seems to me that gays, transgenders, and women who want to have an abortion own our politicians.
Returners
1 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2015
Why don't most models go past 2100 AD? Do the scientists only care about what happens during their lifetime only? Considering how concerning the situation is.. it would be smart to further project and see what happens.


The Earth has been in a bit of a hiatus on the rate of sea level rise, only about 8 inches to a foot per century, for the past 8000 years. Prior to that the rate of sea level rise was much faster.

Perhaps the Earth is about to throw a curve ball and start having sea level rise of a few meters per century again, like it did for a nearly 10000 year period from the low 20k to 11k years ago.

Remember, "unprecedented" is a loaded media term used to drive ratings. You hear it a lot on the Weather Channel, and should generally never take it too seriously.

Northern Africa in Lybia was once submerged under parts of the mediterranean, and had salt water seas well inland, not to mention very large fresh water seas as well, just a few thousand years ago..
Returners
1 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2015
Now the salt water seas i Lybia was actually a few million years ago during a totally different climatic scenario.

The inland freshwater lakes were larger than the Great Lakes in the U.S. and they existed up until a few thousand years ago (5k to 8k or so) at which point the prevailing monsoon patterns changed and the lakes and forests of northern and eastern africa disappeared...and much of the Sahara was born at that time.

The oldest Egyptian dynasties (right around 5000 years ago) used Wood as a major construction material and made massive temples and such, and had the biggest fleets in the world, and the biggest ships in the world. Where did they get the lumber? North Africa.

The whole place used to be a Paradise, but then the climate hanged naturally, and now it's a wasteland that mostly only supports life if there is human help/intervention to do so.

Humans: Mitigating natural climate change for at least 5000 years.
leetennant
4 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2015
So someone asked you a question about the present and you responded with a long rant about the past? Your logic hasn't improved

Why don't most models go past 2100 AD? Do the scientists only care about what happens during their lifetime only?


Modelling involves taking the best available data and controlling for everything but the variable being investigated (in this case human emissions). As the model unfolds over time, the chance of it diverging from reality increase. That's why they model for a variety of human emission volumes (intermediate and high) and that's why predictions for next decade have a far greater accuracy than those for post-2050.

We are at the moment trying to model the impact in this century. There are longer-term models out there (sea level rise, for example) but their accuracy post-2100 makes them more a curiosity than useful.
leetennant
4 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2015
A real world example, Tangent2 is what happens to our populations projections. In Australia, we have a five-yearly Census but we produce population projections for the next 10 years post-Census for planning purposes.

We take the Census data and then add births, deaths, migrations and then project them across time. If we have a Census in 2011 then we expect our 2012 projection to be pretty accurate. By the time we get to 2021, our calculated errors around that data will be much higher because a lot of things can happen in that 10 yrs we can't predict.

We then have a Census in 2016 and we use that to imrpove the projections for 2021 and then project out to 2026. It's the same with all modelling.
serge747
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2015
Funny how so few persons seem to beleive scientics, given this is a mainly scientific web site.

Oh, wait, they are paid by the Koch brothers to be here.
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (3) Oct 12, 2015
Plasmarevenge spouts:
There is never any doubt what the projections will say. Is the world really this predictable? Are the models really this predictive? If you take many of the climate science authors at their own word, the point of the models is to advocate for change. It's almost as if the models themselves are simply a message at this point.


Can you please give us a link to the "climate science authors" who say "in their own words" that "the point of the models is to advocate for change." I seem to have missed that in my readings. Please give us links to the climate scientists or their peer reviewed papers that show this?
Returners
3 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2015
Funny how so few persons seem to beleive scientics, given this is a mainly scientific web site.

Oh, wait, they are paid by the Koch brothers to be here.

I would never intentionally mislead anyone about facts of any nature, and I certainly would never accept money to do so.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2015
Funny how so few persons seem to beleive scientics, given this is a mainly scientific web site.

Oh, wait, they are paid by the Koch brothers to be here.

Know what's not funny?
How the ignorant "believe scientics"

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