WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A new study says the melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet may be irreversible.
- This consequence of global warming may come even if we stick to the conditions of the Paris agreement.
- Melting ice flow from Antarctica may cause locations like New York, Tokyo, and Hamburg to be lost to flooding.
With the Antarctic Ice Sheet melting at such an extreme rate, a new study says the loss may already be irreversible even if temperatures were to return to colder levels.
The ice sheet has an ice mass that equals 58 meters of the globe’s sea-level rise. Its “sheer magnitude” gives Antarctica an “enormous” sea-level contribution.
Over the past few decades, the rate at which it’s been losing mass has been accelerating. Global warming is expected to increase that trend.
Even if the conditions of the Paris climate agreement are met, to keep global warming below 2 degrees, sea levels will still rise 2.5 meters globally because of the melting ice flow from Antarctica.
Co-author of the study, Anders Levermann, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said if we don’t keep to the Paris agreement, the sea level rise would be catastrophic.
Levermann said the consequences could be enough to flood famous destinations like Hamburg, Tokyo, and New York.
If warming levels reach 6-9 degrees above, over 70% of the present-day ice volume will be lost. If warming reaches 10 degrees higher, Antarctica will lose practically all of its ice.
Even if temperatures cool to what they were before industrial times, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, in particular, won’t be able to grow back.
Researcher and study co-author Ricarda Winkelmann said in a statement that the loss of mass of the white cap on the South Pole will eventually cause it to be unstable.
The study was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.