Even though climate change and global warming may possibly be one of the most debated issues in the world’s government and among concerned citizens, not much is being done to combat the self-inflicted cause. Carl Sagan once stated that the Earth is just and blue and green ball drifting about the cosmos. Though, as the blue and green, life-bearing ball grows less green and more gray from industrial emissions, causing the Earth’s ice caps to melt. According to recent study done by NASA, one of Antarctica’s last titanic ice shelves will completely crumble and fall into the ocean by 2020.
NASA stated earlier this week that scientists were alerted that the gigantic ice shelf, known scientifically as Larsen C, looks very vulnerable. Considering the ice shelf is nearly the size of Scotland, scientists are very worried that it will cause a major rise in sea levels. As it begins cracking, it will become more and more weak, leading to the shortening of time it will take to fully collapse. This study was published in the latest journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Scientists know the dangers of this happening in the future. In 2002, scientists saw the death of the Larsen B ice shelf, nearly half the size of Rhode Island. Although this was a tremendous and environmentally tragic incident, Antarctica has reach a major desalinization point. Scientists believe the that the collapse of no later than five years from now will be much more devastating.
Antarctic has scores of ice shelves, massive, glacier-fed floating cliffs of 10,000-year-old ice. The largest one that hangs perilously over the edge of the continent, which is nearly the size of France. Scientists stated the melting of Antarctica is been bad in the last century; however, this one will be undoubtedly worse.
The U.S Geological Survey, which has been monitoring ice shelves on Antarctica, said the glaciers located on the Antarctic peninsula may disperse enough water to rise the world’s average sea level by 0.46 meters if they disappear. Since 2007, when a previous report was done of the rate of thinning and melting of Antarctica ice shelves, the sea levels rises that were predicted were seen as too extreme. Many scientists found that the analysis of their data revealed a seemingly low estimate of just 60 centimeters, around two feet, increase in sea levels by 2100. Although this may be a long way down the road in comparison to lives of many people, children born today will have to deal with the aftermath of nearly every ice shelf on the ice caps crumbling and dispersing even more fresh water into the world’s oceans.
The introduction of fresh water into salt water is very dangerous. Ocean currents are controlled by salt levels at different depths. If fresh water is introduced, currents become disrupted and cause major floods in coastal areas around the world.
In the last few years, a study was conducted on on the health of Antarctica and Greenland. They found that the size and depth of them which the two continents are holds enough water to raise the sea level by 65 meters. To compare this to a less, but also devastating event, imagine all of the world’s mountain glaciers, snowfalls, and icy peaks melt. This would only contribute a 0.4 meter increase in sea level. A study done by the USGS in 2014 revealed that if current atmospheric perturbations and global warming continue, the current rate of melting will cause the entire glacier of Glacier National Park, Montana, to disappear by 2150. Iceland is also a concern. Currently, around 11 percent of the country is covered by glaciers. If the heat projections for the rest of the century continue, 40 percent of Iceland’s glaciers will disappear by 2100 and be gone by 2200.
However, the major problem is the one less known. Not enough research has been done on the Antarctica ice shelves. Current legislation has caused the revoking of money from many earth and atmospheric institutions and laboratories. For example, NASA’s budget was cut in half this past legislative season. Right now, NASA’s yearly budget is $18.4 billion per year. Considering the federal budget is nearly $3.4 trillion per year. This means that NASA receives just under 0.5 percent in tax revenue per year. Therefore, half of every penny in tax dollars goes undoubtedly to one of the most needed and important agencies to the health and wellness of the atmosphere and the entire Earth.
Some politicians vehemently oppose more funding for disenfranchised environmental agencies and climatologists that wish to study more about Antarctica and its possible dangers if it melts. Some politicians have even put climate change denial in the forefront of their political agenda, the worst of which is Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz has called himself the “Galileo of his time.” Considering Galileo had a liberal, ecclesiastically illegal view on discovering more about the planet and cosmic bodies was disregarded by the rule of The Church, Cruz is hopelessly not Galileo in any characteristic. Other lawmakers have even gone to somewhat odd and confusing lengths to profess their denial of climate change. Last year, Senator Jim Inhofe threw a snowball on the floor of the Senate. Of course, it was in the middle of a terrible snow storm in Washington, D.C. Although 96 percent of scientists state that evidence shows that global warming will cause many meters of sea level rise from the melting of the Antarctica ice shelf to affect the planet by 2100, many are still in denial.
The biggest problem with estimating sea level rises by the end of the century is that they are very uncertain. One of the problems with understanding the basic facts of what global warming is doing to the environment is that scientists cannot put an exact number on it. Don Chambers, a sea level researcher at the University of Texas stated, “Some things had to be neglected…Because of that, projections were on the low side.”
Eric Rignot, co-author of the study done on the Antarctica ice shelves and glaciologist at NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stated the study of Antarctica and its many ice shelves are providing greater amounts of data to be analyzed. Believes that more accurate predication can be made about how, “much more land ice, will react to a warming climate.”
Nearly 200 nations have accepted an invitation to come to the table and negotiate an accord with the United Nations by the consummation of 2015 to fight climate change and global warming. Scientists expect than within the next five years, people in every country on Earth will experience heavily increased levels and instances of floods, droughts, and an increase of sea levels, potentially flooding entire cities on the East Coast. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has conducted studies that show the probability that humans caused this detriment to the planet is over 95 percent. The human actives that provoked further trauma to the planet are the emissions from fossils fuels and the use of refrigerants and chlorofluorocarbons found in aerosol cans, leading to more greenhouse gases being dispersed among the atmosphere.
Ala Khazendar, the lead scientist of NASA’s study, explained that the finding revealed that the cracking in Antarctica’s Laren B ice shelf will eventually disintegrate and fall into the ocean within the next five years. Once this happens, there is not stopping it from contributing more water to the already rising sea levels.
NASA’s scientists have found that the sea level rises on an average of one to two millimeters per year, typically from Antarctica. Although this seems like a minute increase, the effects to the world’s shores can be devastating in just a few years. During the last 100 years, the average global temperature has increased by one degree Celsius, around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to a 2014 USGS study, if the Earth’s climate becomes more susceptible to the onset of global warming, the current volume of ice sheets will decrease in both Antarctica and Greenland. If Greenland melts within the next 100 years, it would result in a sea level rise of around 6.5 meters. The melting of West Antarctica, which is weakening, will result in a sea level rise of eight meters. West Antarctica is very worrisome; most of it is underground. Therefore, scientists cannot detect the volume of ice underground, thus leading to even more inaccurate sea level predictions.
Furthermore, the study shows that the rise in sea levels will be nearly 10 meters if the West Antarctica ice shelf was to all fall into the ocean, it would affect one quarter of the U.S. population. It would destroy nearly all infrastructure along the Gulf Coast and the entire eastern seaboard. NASA’s study also discovered that the Leppard and Flask glaciers, which are tributary shelves of Antarctica, have lost nearly 20 to 22 meters in thickness just within the last few years. Moreover, the pace at which the thinning is happening has substantially increased in the aftermath of the 2002 collapse of an nearby ice shelf.
In 2012, a survey was conducted on some of the worlds climatologists, revealing that all of their numbers did not correlate. The IPCC’s best approximation showed that the sea level will rise by over one meter by the year 2100. Though, Aslak Grinsted, a glaciologist at the University of Copenhagen, explains that there is, “no good reason,” for the uncertainly in the health of the Antarctica ice shelf health and accurate predictions regarding sea levels by the end of the century.
Although official information is meddlesome to detect, debate over a one or two meter rise in sea level pales in comparison for long-term predictions. A some points in the geological and atmospheric history of the Earth, the planet gains or loses a few degrees in its average temperature for time to time. Around 120,000 years ago, the Earth was two degrees Celsius warmer than it is today. Through archaeological digs by paleo-climatologists to find layers of the Earth from 120 millenia ago they found that the sea level was between five to 10 meters higher than they are today. Ted Scambos, head scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, stated if the world’s lawmakers do not take extreme measures to control global warming, Greenland could be gone by 2100. Furthermore, because of this, it should provoke lawmakers to consider NASA and other environmental more vital to national security.
While island and mountainous areas on continents are safe from this self-inflicted natural disasters, coastal areas will see flooding in never before seen proportions. A majority of the seven billion people on Earth live under 200 miles from the coast. 70 percent of the world’s people will suffer the consequences of the Antarctica ice shelf melting. 20 percent of the world’s people will suffer the greatest losses from water rushing hundreds of miles inland. Most cities within a few dozen miles from the coastlines will be destroyed, forcing people out of regions to higher ground.
If nearly five billion people are forced inland to safer areas, it would result in mass chaos for the collection of water, food, and other essentials. Such a disaster would be a world-altering event, leading to crash of all economic and political institutions. Though, nothing has been done further the studies on Antarctica, which is the most dangerous one.
This problem will also affect many species of plants and animals. When Antarctica melts, it will kill off all polar-dwelling mammals, as well as decimating farms along the coast of continents.
Some examples that have already been seen is the Yellow River in China, which the delta is sinking at 100 times the rate at which the sea level rises. Northern Canada has had an adverse effect from this. Even though the glacier had only a few square kilometers a ice just a few years ago, the glacier are beginning to grow upwards, actually causing the sea level around Alaska to fall.
Climate change has already begun to alter Earth’s winds currents as well, two of which are the North Atlantic Current and the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream keeps a steady equilibrium of ocean water distribution. This means that water is beginning to go back towards the shore as the warm air currents do not have enough energy to keep them closer to the equator. Therefore, the entire East Coast is already seeing a steadily increasing rise in sea levels, flooding, and erosion. In some areas a long the coast, there is a rise in sea and river levels of nearly four feet per year.
The Antarctica ice shelf has reach a critical desalinization point. Ocean currents are being inflicted by both the increased levels of salt in the water and the weakening the the Gulf Stream and The North Atlantic Current. Considering NASA’s study showed that the Larsen B Antarctica ice shelf will fail to exist by 2020, extreme measures need to be taken the reverse the rate at which emissions are being soaked up by the atmosphere. If not, a disaster will ensue by 2100.
Opinion by Alex Lemieux
Washington Post: This Antarctic Ice Shelf Could Collapse by 2020, NASA Says
Huffington Post: Antarctic Ice Shelf Is A Few Years From Disintegration: NASA
The Daily Caller: Congress To Slash NASA’s ‘Global Warming’ Research Budget
Environment 360: Rising Waters: How Fast and How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?
USGS: Sea Level and Climate
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Photo Courtesy of Tak’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
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