Saturday, November 12, 2016

Does Record Low Antarctic Sea Ice Foreshadow Collapsing Glaciers?

The media and climate science deniers have been remarkably quiet about rapidly disappearing Antarctic sea ice. The sea ice extent in Antarctica is the lowest in satellite record history for
this date in the year. As shown below, Antarctic sea ice extent has fallen below the previous record low extent for November 11, set in 1986. The Antarctic Sea Ice extent of 15.3 million km is 600,000 million km lower that the old 1986 record (yellow trend line). This is a larger area than is covered by Spain. It is also 2.4 million km below the 2013 level for this date (dotted green line)

For a clearer, interactive version of the above graph, follow link and click on the "Antarctic" button 

According to National Snow and Ice Data Center "the rapid early reduction in sea ice cover in this region may create favorable conditions for the break up of the eastern Peninsula ice shelves at the end of austral summer. Similar sea ice trends and weather conditions were present during the spring seasons preceding past ice shelf retreats (e.g., 2001 to 2002)."

Sudden melts can lead to hydrofracturing that can devour an ice shelf nearly the size of Rhode Island in hours or days. While catastrophic sea level rise from the collapse of Antarctic glaciers is probably unlikely to occur for decades, it would not be surprising if there is a spectacular collapse of either an ice shelf or glacier at some point during this year's Antarctic melt season. This year's Antarctic melt season may not lead to a significant rise in sea level, but in future years as Antarctica melts, it's not a question of if Miami will be underwater, but whether or not it will occur before 2100.

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