Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ice Shelf Disintegration Threatens Environment, Queen's Study

Date:
August 9, 2005
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
The spectacular disintegration of Antarctica's "Larsen-B" Ice Shelf was unprecedented since the last ice age, according to a recent study published in Nature. And the disintegrating Antarctic ice could have huge implications for global warming and rising sea levels.

Larsen ice shelf.
Credit: Image courtesy of Queen's University

Using sediment core and oxygen isotope analysis, researchers have recently proved that Larsen B -- which disintegrated in 35 days in 2002 -- had been a stable ice shelf 200 metres thick with a surface area of 3,250 square kilometres for at least 10,000 years. By contrast the Larsen A Ice Shelf, which broke up in the 1990s, was absent for a significant part of that period and reformed beginning about 4,000 years ago, according to the study.

"The disintegration of Larsen B is almost certainly a response to human-induced global warming," says Queen's geographer Robert Gilbert, the only Canadian researcher on the international research team. "Antarctic temperatures have increased more than 10°C in the last 25 years. By comparison, the world-wide temperature change during the entire post-glacial period has only been 2 -- 3°C," he adds.

Larsen B's demise is likely the consequence of long-term thinning due to melting from underneath as well as short-term surface melting due to global warming. The "under melt" of a few tens of metres over thousands of years is caused by warming waters or currents flowing beneath the floating ice shelf. However, the surface melting has happened much faster over decades, the study concludes. And Larsen B's demise could set off a series of environmental changes.

"The breaking up of Larsen B alone will not change sea level, but other glaciers previously restricted by the ice shelf have surged forward, lowering their surfaces," says Dr. Gilbert. "Lower elevations have warmer temperatures, which warm the glaciers and cause more melt and more flux of ice to the sea. So that is having and will have an effect on global sea levels. As more ice is lost there may be a greater impact on sea level than previously predicted.

"Further, with the increased energy in the atmosphere associated with global warming, there will be more storms," he warns. "Storm surges, which also raise water levels, will have profound effects on low-lying areas and may necessitate infrastructure like the large moveable dams called surge gates already used in Europe and Providence, R.I., that can be closed during extreme high sea levels to prevent flooding."

Although other, smaller ice shelves have undergone periodic decay and growth since the last ice age, these small ice shelves exist at the climatic limit for ice shelf formation and would be expected to respond quickly to climate change over hundreds and thousands of years, the study indicates.

The research team also includes scientists from Hamilton College in New York State, Colgate University, the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory at Columbia University, Montclair State University in New Jersey and Southern Illinois University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "Ice Shelf Disintegration Threatens Environment, Queen's Study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050804123855.htm>.
Queen's University. (2005, August 9). Ice Shelf Disintegration Threatens Environment, Queen's Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050804123855.htm
Queen's University. "Ice Shelf Disintegration Threatens Environment, Queen's Study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050804123855.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — With Pacific ocean water already showing signs of warming, the NOAA says there's about a 66 percent chance the event will begin before November. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins