Press Release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
All around the Antarctic coastline there are ice sheet instabilities waiting to be triggered. If this happens ice flows inexorably into the ocean and raises sea levels worldwide. The one region where instability likely has already been initiated by a warming of the ocean is probably the region which collapses faster than any other, find scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Even though the rapid ice loss takes decades to unfold and centuries to complete, the speed of ice loss from Antarctica is already a major driver of global sea level rise. It will affect hundreds of millions of people living near the world’s coastlines, from Miami to Shanghai.
“We often think that regarding Antarctic ice loss, the worst is yet to come – although that is true it seems that this ‘worst’ has already been set in motion,” says lead-author Anders Levermann from PIK and Columbia University’s LDEO in New York. “Pine-Island- and Thwaites Glacier in the West of the Antarctic continent are increasingly losing ice for three decades already, and computer simulations support that we see a marine ice sheet instability happening here potentially leading to additional global sea-level rise of more than 3 meters. Our calculations now show that this instability is unfolding much more rapidly than similar processes would do in other parts of Antarctica that store similarly large ice masses. The good news is that the ice masses in the East of the continent might be slower, at least if we rapidly limit further global warming. The bad news is that the worst of sea level rise might be already under way.”
“The results are fascinating,” adds Feldmann, “yet also a strong call for adaptation and resolute reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions to curb global sea-level rise.”
Who we are: The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is one of the leading research institutions addressing relevant questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development. Natural and social scientists work closely together to generate interdisciplinary insights that provide a sound basis for decision-making for society, businesses and politics. PIK is a member of the Leibniz Association.
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