What’s cold, as big as Rome and should be firmly rooted in Antarctica? The Conger ice shelf, which collapsed in mid-March due to record high temperatures.
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The Conger collapse “is one of the most significant collapse events anywhere in Antarctica since the early 2000s when the Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated,” said Catherine Colello Walker, an earth and planetary scientist at Nasa and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as reported by The Guardian. “It won’t have huge effects, most likely, but it’s a sign of what might be coming.” Scientists track changes to the ice via satellite data.
Ice shelves are floating glacier-fed sheets of ice attached to land. They are supposed to be permanent, or at least relatively stable for millions of years.
A heat-trapping atmospheric river bumped temperatures up to record March highs of about 11 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in the collapsed shelf. When shelves collapse, sea level rises.
The Conger wasn’t the only recent incident of ice breaking free. Significant ice chunks also detached from the Totten glacier and the Glenzer ice shelf. “Much of East Antarctica is restrained by buttressing ice shelves, so we need to keep an eye on all the ice shelves there,” tweeted Helen Amanda Fricker, professor of glaciology at the Scripps Polar Center.
Indeed. And on West Antarctica, too. A meltdown of the Thwaites glacier, which is as big as Florida and protects the West Atlantic ice sheet, could result in a ten-foot sea level rise. Which would put much of the inhabited world underwater.
Experts are coming up with varying predictions, but most have something in common: they’re terrifying. Whether there’s a massive sea level rise by 2050 or by 2100, many scientists say it’s coming. Between Antarctic glaciers calving, mountain glaciers and Greenland ice melting, seawater expanding as it continues to warm up and humanity’s mass emission addiction, Earth may soon be run by hardier creatures. Get ready for a reign of rats or the crowning of a cockroach king.
Complete ice shelf collapse in Antarctic is a scary signal is written by Teresa Bergen for inhabitat.com