Study validates East Antarctic ice sheet to remain stable even if western ice sheet melts

Public Release: 17-Aug-2017

Study validates East Antarctic ice sheet to remain stable even if western ice sheet melts

Indiana University

IMAGE: Team members taking a short ice core to study properties of sediment coming from the East Antarctic ice sheet. view more 
Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

 

INDIANAPOLIS — A new study from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis validates that the central core of the East Antarctic ice sheet should remain stable even if the West Antarctic ice sheet melts.

The study’s findings are significant, given that some predict the West Antarctic ice sheet could melt quickly due to global warming.

If the East Antarctic ice sheet, which is 10 times larger than the western ice sheet, melted completely, it would cause sea levels worldwide to rise almost 200 feet, according to Kathy Licht, an associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI.

Licht led a research team into the Transarctic Mountains in search of physical evidence that would verify whether a long-standing idea was still true: The East Antarctic ice sheet is stable.

The East Antarctic ice sheet has long been considered relatively stable because most of the ice sheet was thought to rest on bedrock above sea level, making it less susceptible to changes in climate. However, recent studies show widespread water beneath it and higher melt potential from impinging ocean water.

The West Antarctic ice sheet is a marine-based ice sheet that is mostly grounded below sea level, which makes it much more susceptible to changes in sea level and variations in ocean temperature.

“Some people have recently found that the East Antarctic ice sheet isn’t as stable as once thought, particularly near some parts of the coast,” Licht said.

Recent studies have determined that the perimeter of the East Antarctic ice sheet is potentially more sensitive and that the ice may have retreated and advanced much more dynamically than was thought, Licht said.

“We believed this was a good time to look to the interior of the ice sheet. We didn’t really know what had happened there,” Licht said.

The research team found the evidence confirming the stability of the East Antarctic ice sheet at an altitude of 6,200 feet, about 400 miles from the South Pole at the edge of what’s called the polar plateau, a flat, high surface of the ice sheet covering much of East Antarctica.

To understand how an ice sheet changes through time, a continuous historical record of those changes is needed, according to Licht. The team found layers of sediment and rocks that built up over time, recording the flow of the ice sheet and reflecting climate change. Finding that record was a challenge because glaciers moving on land tend to wipe out and cover up previous movements of the glacier, Licht said.

The big question the team wanted to answer was how sensitive the East Antarctic sheet might be to climate change.

“There are models that predict that the interior of the East Antarctic ice sheet wouldn’t change very much, even if the West Antarctic ice sheet was taken away,” Licht said. According to these models, even if the ice sheet’s perimeter retreats, its core remains stable.

“It turns out that our data supports those models,” she said. “It’s nice to have that validation.”

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The team’s research findings are presented in a paper, “East Antarctic ice sheet stability recorded in a high-elevation ice-cored moraine,” that was published today online in the journal Geology. The research presented is in collaboration with Mike Kaplan, Gisela Winckler, Joerg Schaefer and Roseanne Schwartz at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

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33 thoughts on “Study validates East Antarctic ice sheet to remain stable even if western ice sheet melts

  1. So good ole UIPUI (OOHEPOOE) is in the climate research game now. How far they have come. I live less than 30 miles from the campus.

    • I teach at IUPUI (Math and physics.). I have noticed a few recent climate articles. Gotta keep he funding rolling I guess. I have been tempted to visit some of these “researchers” but I figure it’s not worth the time.

    • Academia is sick. There are too many PhDs chasing too few tenured positions. Publishing bad but interesting sounding research is rewarded. Academic dishonesty is becoming the norm. link The crummy climate science that bolsters CAGW is due entirely to those problems.

  2. So! We can move forward with melting all that ice and jack up sea level 500m instead of the 1000m both melting would get us. Nice to know. How we gonna do it, again?

  3. Why are those dudes wearing cold weather gear?
    Griff continues to tell us that the poles are warming at an enormous rate.

      • The IUPUI campus and is in Indianapolis, IN. We have had a rather cool summer here in central Indiana but not THAT COOL!

  4. “If the East Antarctic ice sheet, which is 10 times larger than the western ice sheet, melted completely, it would cause sea levels worldwide to rise almost 200 feet, according to Kathy Licht”

    ….in an article that says it’s not going to happen

    • This won’t happen at all.
      If the Antarctic will melt, there will be a sea level rise of about 20 meters until the whole ice pack will be too light in weight and starts to swim like the Arctic.
      At this point, any melting will no longer rise the sea level.

      • petermue
        August 18, 2017 at 8:26 pm

        This won’t happen at all.
        If the Antarctic will melt, there will be a sea level rise of about 20 meters until the whole ice pack will be too light in weight and starts to swim like the Arctic.
        At this point, any melting will no longer rise the sea level.

        Surely the ice will not float unless it has displaced it’s own weight. This will be equivalent to ALL the ice melting. This will mean a much bigger sea-level rise.

        SteveT

      • @SteveT

        http://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae389.cfm

        At the moment when the ice starts to float, any melting will not contribute to a rise of the sea level any more.
        Unfortunately, all studies I’ve read about Antarctic melt takes the whole mass of ice into account.
        So their numbers of about 200 ft (61 meters) is completely nonsense, aside from the fact, that the Antarctic will never melt thus far.

        If the East Antarctic ice sheet, which is 10 times larger than the western ice sheet, melted completely, it would cause sea levels worldwide to rise almost 200 feet, according to Kathy Licht,

        This article refers to 200 ft just for the East Antarctic ice sheet, which makes the numbers utterly ludicrous.

    • Yep, where average temps are magnitudes below 0C. That’ll melt ’em! (as Antarctica continues to cool and expand)

  5. If the West Antarctic ice sheet melts either quickly or slowly or not at all, it will be because there are at least ninety-one volcanoes under it and not because of global warming.

    • The WAIS collapsed at least 3 times over the last million years – 200k, 400k, & 800k years ago. Best I can figure out mankind didn’t have doodly squat to do with the events.

      I think the volcanic activity is the effect rather than the cause, as when the ice sheet collapses you remove kilometers of overlaying ice from the bedrock which is compressed by over a klick on average. I think the volcanic activity is as much an artifact of the ice sheet collapse as the caldera outbreak along the Alaska Peninsula was an artifact of the end of the last great ice age 12k years ago.

      I have the papers to reference somewhere and will post links later as a reply. Unfortunately a search on WAIS collapse these days only returns the expected green scaremongering claptrap. Apologies for the delay. Cheers –

  6. I used to laugh at some of this research,but now I worry that the entire edifice of education has been destroyed in service of Nouveau Monde global governance.

    All the hype over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that was all manmade and then they discover a few weeks ago there are 97 volcanoes they didn’t know about underneath the ice. A year ago, Washington State (?) U folks recorded a sub ice seismic event that was a volcanic ERUPTION there.

    Many commenters here think that volcanoes don’t erupt under ice sheets because of the pressure. Such volcanoes have an inverted wash basin shape and are called ‘tuyas’. They are found in Iceland, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon and unseen in the WAIS and Greenland (like WAIS, there are ‘hot’ areas under Greenland and chains of volcs under the sea nearby, recently discovered but never talked about in left scientific circles- Heck, Iceland is near G-land and there are active smoking ones in WAIS).

    The venerable science of geology resisted the CAGW juggernaut, but of late it has succumbed to the cash fountain. I always new when they changed the university departments of geology to “earth sciences” it would lower the standard – like other disciplines that protesteth too much by putting “science” in their names. They do this kind of thing where they need to advertise, like Deutsches Demokratishe Republik and Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.

    This work has a high schoolish quality. Was the E Antarctic at risk? The world waited for a hundred years for the answer, then Indiana Joneses went to a place 400mi from the south pole at an elevation of 6000 feet and there it was! We were all safe. Gad, and they are going to publish on “Geology”. Rats, they should have changed its name to Earthy Sciencish”.

  7. I don`t think volcanism under WAIS ice sheet make any difference. Are there signs that the activity change? One of the most active volcanoes under ice is Grimsvotn in Iceland, with a jøkulhlaup now and then, and a seldom melting, making a hole in the ice cap. This has no effect on sea level or overall melting of Vatnajøkul.

  8. Excerpted quote from above article, to wit:

    “If the East Antarctic ice sheet, which is 10 times larger than the western ice sheet, melted completely, it would cause sea levels worldwide to rise almost 200 feet, according to Kathy Licht”

    So, iffen all the ice in Antarctica melts, ….. sea levels will rise 200 feet above what they now are, …. RIGHT?

    But, but, but that means, ….. that 35.5 million years ago sea levels were actually 200 feet above what they now are, …. RIGHT?

    To wit, the “200 feet higher than present” proof:

    Ice in Antarctica suddenly appeared —— about 35 million years ago. For the previous 100 million years the continent had been essentially ice-free. Even after Antarctica had drifted to near its present location, its climate remained subtropical but then, 35.5 million years ago, ice formed on Antarctica in only about 100,000 years, which is an “overnight” shift in geological terms.” Source of the above is HERE

    Therefore, given the above, ……. 35.5 million years ago the current Antarctica shoreline and 200 vertical feet of the Antarctica continent would have been under water, …… or below sea level, ……. RIGHT?

    The big question is, does all of the present day “drilling and digging” into the Antarctica continent, , both “off-shore” and/or ”on-shore”, ……. factor in or consider the aforesaid “200 vertical feet difference” between past and present sea level height?

    • Sam, Antarctica was much more above sealevel when ice free. The ice, say, 3km thick, pushed it down ~ 1km. If all the ice melted, there would be a SLR of, say, 200ft and over 15000yrs, Antarctica would slowly rise again and sea level would drop about 75ft

    • Gary, then am I logically correct in assuming that when Greenland was ice free then it was also much more above sea level and that the more than 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) thick glacial ice thereon “pushed it down ~ 1km” …… and if all that ice melted then Greenland would rise about 75ft above sea level.

      And given the estimate that the glacial ice that once covered New York City and Long Island was up to 2 mi (3.2 km) thick, then is it also logically correct to assume that that area of the northeast of the US was also “pushed it down ~ 1km” and has since risen back up about 75ft?

      On this subject of glacier compression and subsidence, ….. the Hudson Canyon makes for an interesting reference, to wit:

      • Yup, and the very reason I was hoping that Gary would respond to my …. “logically correct assumptions” even though I figured that he wouldn’t.

  9. I am having difficulty dividing a polar region into east and west. Somehow it does not compute.

  10. There has been a change in surface wind flows since June which should lead to an increase in sea ice extent. The multiple warm surface flows, which had been flowing southward over 30 to 40 degrees of latitude for the last 2+ years and into the sea ice/coastline of Antarctica, have shifted to easterly winds which do not drive into the continent. The buffer is back in place, especially to the east of the WAIS where a large area of the ocean is below – 10 degrees F. …https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=temp/orthographic=143.87,-84.25,497/loc=40.592,-77.038

  11. So we have ice cores from Eastern Antarctica that are up to over 800,0000 years old, yet we need another study to confirm that it is stable?

    A model is not really a study, it is an assumption.

    Ice cores are a lot older on the eastern side than the western side providing the scientific evidence that the eastern side is in fact a lot more stable. Ice cores on the western side show they are fairly stable too, but lasting no where near as long.

    “The study’s findings are significant, given that some predict the West Antarctic ice sheet could melt quickly due to global warming.”

    None of these studies has given any scientific evidence how this region is suppose to warm about 20c to make this even possible.

    Greenland ice sheet is not going any where during many future generations at temperatures much warmer than the majority of western Antarctica. Ocean temperatures many miles from Antarctica are easily the coldest on the planet despite so called climate change, actually global warming.

    “Some people have recently found that the East Antarctic ice sheet isn’t as stable as once thought, particularly near some parts of the coast,” Licht said.”

    The ice sheet near the coast in some areas flows into the ocean due to increased pressure and weight from further snowfall. How can ice be stable when it has melted eventually in the ocean? Just because some coastal areas have ice moving into the ocean does not say anything about how stable the general ice sheet is.

    Yes, Eastern Antarctica ice sheet will melt millions of years in the future when the continent has moved away from the polar region via continental drift and has far more solar irradiance than now.

    Do we need a study to confirm a round wheel is better than a square one? No wonder billions of dollars are wasted on rubbish, when it could have gone towards far more worth while causes instead.

    “If the East Antarctic ice sheet, which is 10 times larger than the western ice sheet, melted completely, it would cause sea levels worldwide to rise almost 200 feet, according to Kathy Licht, an associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI.”

    If I won the top prize on the American national lottery and Euro millions every year, I would become the richest person in the world.

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