4°C Global Temperature Rise Could Result in Collapse of Antarctic Ice Shelves

More than a third of the Antarctic ice shelves could be at risk of collapse, resulting in unimaginable amounts of water added into the oceans if the global temperature reaches 4°Cabove the pre-industrial era, experts warn.

Ice shelves are the floating ice sheets over a landmass around the coasts of Antarctica. Scientists from the University of Reading suggest that limiting the temperature rise to 2°C can reduce the risk impact by 50% and avoid the drastic increase in global sea levels.

Published in the journal Geographical Research Letters, the finding suggests that 4°C warming could melt down 34% of the total Antarctic shelves – which is almost half a million square kilometers in size!

4°C Global Temperature Rise Could Result in Collapse of Antarctic Ice Shelves

4°C Global Temperature Rise can cause the collapse of Antarctic Ice Shelves | Image: Reuters

Dr. Ella Gilbert from the University of Reading said that the ice shelves are significant buffers that act like a barrier preventing the flow of ice into the water and increasing the sea levels. If the ice shelves collapse, it would unleash huge amounts of glacier water into the sea.

According to Dr. Gilbert,

We know that, when melted ice accumulates on the surface of ice shelves, it can make them fracture and collapse spectacularly.

She further recalls that past researches have given us a macro perspective of the Antarctic ice decline. But the new study has projected finer details with more precise projections.

The recent study has alarmed the need to limit the global temperature rise, as set out in the Paris agreement that is promoting a framework to avoid the disastrous effects of global climate change by limiting the overall temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

As a part of the study, researchers have also found that Larsen C – the largest existing ice shelf of the peninsula is at the risk of collapsing from warmer temperatures.

Melting ice on the coast of Adélie Land in East Antarctica | Image: Reuters/Pauline Askin

The rise of 4°C than the pre-industrial era global temperature could cause the collapse of many Antarctic Ice shelves in the next few decades.

Another research study by Durham University has found that melting ice sheets have caused drastic sea level rises. In February, an iceberg equal to the size of Bedfordshire broke off from Antarctica, according to British Antarctic Survey (BAS) station.

Limiting the temperature rise is not just good for Antarctica. By preserving the ice shelves, there will be a slowdown in sea level rise, which is good for everyone!

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