West Antarctica’s Ice Sheet Collapsed Into the Ocean 120,000 years ago

It could happen again.

Higher temperatures caused the collapse of the ice sheet of West Antarctica, causing the sea level to rise between 7 and 10 meters higher than it is today, between 116,000 and 129,000 years ago.

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But what caused the sudden rise in sea level?

For a long time, experts were convinced that the rise of large amounts of water during the Eemian period was caused by the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet.

However, recent geological evidence has demonstrated that the Greenland ice was intact and survived the period.

New scientific evidence suggests that the rise in sea level was caused by the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf.

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As reported by Science, Glaciologists are worried about the present-day stability of this humongous ice mass. If it collapsed some 129,000 years ago when temperatures were barely higher than today’s greenhouse-warmed world, how can we be sure that it won’t collapse again?

According to scientists, its base lies below sea level and is presently at risk of being undermined by warming ocean waters.

The worst part, say scientists, glaciers fringing it are retreating fast.

The discovery, made after scientists dug out a sediment core, was reported last week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C.,

The finding validates the concerns scientists have had for quite some time.

The worst part perhaps is that it also provides evidence that the ice sheet disappeared in the recent geological past under climate conditions similar to what we are experiencing today.

“We had an absence of evidence,” explains Anders Carlson, a glacial geologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, who led the study.

“I think we have evidence of absence now.”

If t holds up, the discovery could suggest that “the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might not need a huge nudge to budge,” explained Jeremy Shakun, a paleoclimatologist at Boston College.

This also points that “the big uptick in mass loss observed there in the past decade or two is perhaps the start of that process rather than a short-term blip.”

If things turn out so, the world would need to prepare for sea level to rise faster and further than previously expected.

Via
Science
Source
Smithsonian
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