Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

East Antarctic 'ice plugs' preventing giant rise in sea level
by Brooks Hays
Potsdam, Germany (UPI) May 5, 2013

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

There's a giant bowl of ice in East Antarctica that sits below sea level, and could -- if allowed to slip free -- cause sea level to rise more than a dozen feet. Luckily, as researchers recently discovered, it's held back by several "ice plugs."

Ice sheets are constantly in flux, adding new layers of ice on land while losing chunks as it melts into the ocean or calves off in the form of icebergs. Typically, ice sheets maintain some degree of "balance" -- their mass remaining stable as they add as much ice as they lose. But during extended periods of warmer weather, the loss of ice can outpace the formation of new layers.

This has been happening on the edges of West Antarctica, the location of much climate change research. But this worrisome phenomenon has been less obvious in East Antarctica.

Part of the reason, as Matthias Mengel and Anders Levermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany recently discovered, is that large pieces of ice wedged against East Antarctica's rock ridges are acting as plugs, keeping the giant sheet of ice in Wilkes Basin at bay.

Eventually, these plugs could give way, allowing Wilkes Basin's ice to flow into the ocean.

"This is unstoppable when the plug is removed," explained Levermann. "The speed [of removal] we don't know, but it's definitely a threshold."

Levermann and Mengel ran simulations to better understand what role the plugs will play -- and for how long -- in holding back ice loss to the sea in the future.

Their research determined that eventually, if global warming continues, the plugs won't be up to the task, and sea level rise will be accelerated by the melting of East Antarctica ice. It's a reality, though, that Levermann and Mengel admit is a long way off.

"They are also talking about temperatures much higher than they are now," Ian Joughin, a scientist at the University of Washington's Polar Science Center in Seattle, told National Geographic.

It could take thousands of years for the warm water eating away at West Antarctica, Joughin said, to effect Wilkes Basin.


Related Links
Beyond the Ice Age

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Tourism main topic at annual Antarctic Treaty meeting
Brasilia, Brazil (AFP) April 28, 2014
Increased tourism on the world's iciest continent and its impact on the environment were set to top discussion at an annual Antarctic Treaty meeting that began Monday in Brasilia. "Some countries view the question with concern and believe that there is too much tourism in the region," said Manoel Silva Rodrigues, secretary of Brazil's commission on maritime resources. A lack of preservat ... read more

John C. Houbolt, Unsung Hero of the Apollo Program, Dies at Age 95

NASA Completes LADEE Mission with Planned Impact on Moon's Surface

Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon

Russian Federal Space Agency is elaborating Moon exploration program

Target on Mars Looks Good for NASA Rover Drilling

Mars Rover Switches to Driving Backwards Due to Elevated Wheel Currents

Mission to Mars

Traces of recent water on Mars

NASA Invests in Hundreds of US Small Businesses to Enable Future Missions

Orion Undergoes Simulation Of Intense Launch Vibrations

Orion Exploration Design Challenge Winner Announced

Orion Feels the Vibe During Tests at Kennedy Space Center

China issues first assessment on space activities

China launches experimental satellite

Tiangong's New Mission

"Space Odyssey": China's aspiration in future space exploration

NASA Seeks to Evolve ISS for New Commercial Opportunities

Astronauts Complete Short Spacewalk to Replace Backup Computer

No Official Confirmation of NASA Severing Ties with Russian Space Agency

Astronauts Prep for Spacewalk as Mission Managers Evaluate Busy Schedule

Second O3b satellite cluster delivered for upcoming Arianespace Soyuz launch

Court blocks US plan to buy Russian rocket engines

Arianespace to launch Indonesia satellite BRIsat

It's a "go" for Arianespace's Vega launch with Kazakhstan's first Earth observation satellite

Length of Exoplanet Day Measured for First Time

Spitzer and WISE Telescopes Find Close, Cold Neighbor of Sun

Alien planet's rotation speed clocked for first time

Seven Samples from the Solar System's Birth

Edgy Look at 2D Molybdenum Disulfide

High-Strengh Materials from the Pressure Cooker

Faster Dental Treatment with New Photoactive Molecule

IBM expands cyber-security solutions

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.