‘The world’s biggest ever’ glacier ‘could vanish’ under global warming
By Steve Evans The Guardian 21st October, 2019 06:30:22One of the world’s largest glaciers, the “Ice Wall” at the centre of a controversy over global warming, could collapse under a new warming trend as melting glaciers in Europe and North America grow, according to scientists.
The ice sheet, about 2.7 miles (3.3km) wide and almost 10 feet (3 metres) thick, is situated just west of the Russian town of Yakutsk and stretches to the north-west of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Scientists believe that if the glacier is not properly protected, it could melt by as much as 3 metres (9.4 feet) a year in the next few decades.
However, the Russian-led Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the ice is likely to shrink, with global warming adding a few more degrees (3-5 degrees) to global temperatures by the end of the century.
However Professor Alistair Evans, a glaciologist at the University of Reading in the UK, said the collapse could not be ruled out.
“It’s a very real possibility.
But there’s been no evidence for that yet,” he told BBC News.”
This is the first time in a while where I’m concerned that we’re going to have a collapse of the Ice Wall.”
The IPCC’s assessment is that the ice will gradually thin down, but it’s very uncertain what the ice’s going to do in that case.
“Professor Evans said the possibility of a collapse was heightened by a new set of data from Antarctica showing that a major ice shelf is slowly sliding away from the ice sheet.”
In the first half of the 20th century, the glaciers in the Ross Sea were about 4 feet (1.4 metres) wide, but they are now about 1.4 to 2 feet (0.6-0.9 metres) wider, and the ice shelves are sliding away,” he said.”
That’s not the case anymore.
“So this is not just a matter of ice shelves sliding away.
It’s a matter that there’s a lot more ice in the area that’s not flowing, so there’s also a lot of melting.”
Ice sheet melting: ‘Global warming will cause an ice sheet to disintegrate’Ice on a mountain glacier in Antarctica, September 2020.
Credit: Alistai Sivakaridis/GettyIce is falling out of the ice on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Credit, Alistay Sivaksakarides/ReutersAn artist’s impression shows the melting of a glacier on the East Antarctic Ice Shelf.
Credit © Alistain Sivakis/ReutersThe IPCC report said the rapid rate of melting had a “negative” impact on the environment because it caused more ice to melt than it could store.
It also said it was possible that some glaciers were already losing mass due to climate change.
“Ice is melting in parts of West Antarctica and the East Antarctica ice shelf,” it said.
“This means that the volume of ice that the glaciers can hold in the future will be less than what they could hold in previous decades, which is causing an overall decline in the ice shelf.”
The ice shelf covers more than 4,000 square miles (10,000 sq km) in the Southern Ocean and is one of the largest floating ice shelves in the world.
It was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War by the melting waters of the Amundsen Sea.
It now covers more of the southern tip of West Africa.
Professor Evans told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Ice Shield is the world and the climate-changing glaciers of Antarctica are the world-wide problem.
“We need to understand why the ice shield is melting and what the causes are, and we need to do a lot better monitoring and measuring these things,” he added.
Professor Alistaitan Sivokas, a climate scientist at the Australian National University, said scientists needed to be more careful when talking about global warming and its impact on glaciers.
“If you are worried about global cooling, then the glaciers of the North Atlantic and Greenland are melting, and this is a serious concern, because these glaciers are the largest on Earth,” he explained.
“You need to know why and what is happening, and what we can do about it.”
“The glaciers are melting because the climate has changed, and they are melting as a result of climate change,” he continued.
But if you do not understand why glaciers are going to melt and what’s going on with them, you are not going to be able to get the answers you need.”