In the News
“ a molecule like Zoloft should be completely innocuous to a yeast cell, in the way that an antibiotic would be innocuous
to a viral infection. ” — ethan perlstein, page 14
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Collapse could trigger major
melting and sea level rise
By Devin powell
Amassive slab of floating ice that juts from Antarctica’s west coast could be in hot water soon. Warm ocean currents threaten to sneak up from below
and torpedo the ice in coming decades,
researchers report in the May 10 Nature.
The degradation of the historically
stable Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf would
upset ice on land, triggering melting of
the vast West Antarctic Ice Sheet and
accelerating global sea level rise.
ralph timmermann/alfred wegener institute
“The loss of this ice shelf would be catastrophic,” says Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington in
Seattle. “We could be looking at tens of
centimeters or even meters of sea level
rise.” The Antarctica finding balances
more optimistic news of recent research
showing that sea level rise due to the
melting of glaciers in Greenland may fall
short of worst-case scenarios (Page 10).
“We need to start paying attention to
this area of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,
which has so far been ignored,” says
Laurence Padman, a physical oceanographer with Earth & Space Research in
Antarctica’s Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf,
located just east of the giant peninsula
that extends toward South America,
an iceberg floats in antarctica’s Weddell sea off the Filchner-ronne ice shelf.
the shelf may melt completely by the end of the century, triggering the release of
more ice from the continent itself, a new analysis suggests.
hasn’t caused much worry to date in
terms of sea level rise. Anchored to the
seafloor, the shelf extends outward over
the Weddell Sea and covers an area the
size of Sweden. The ice is hundreds of
meters thick in places and shows signs
of growth in recent years.
But climate change may soon reverse
that trend, the new study suggests.
Global air temperatures are projected
to rise 4 degrees Celsius as the amount
of carbon dioxide and other warming
gases in the atmosphere increases over
the next century. New simulations show
the warmer air could thin and break
up sea ice floating in the Weddell Sea.
Winds in the area would then transfer
less energy to the ice and more directly
into the ocean, churning up the water.