Melting of Ice at Antarctica May Lead to Drastic Increase in Sea Level Globally

Antarctica, is the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole. It is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. Most cruises to the continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches towards South America. It is famous for the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor, striking, iceberg-flanked passageways, and Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum.

The peninsula’s isolated terrain also shelters rich wildlife, including many penguins. We all know Antarctica as the extremely cold and freezing continent where ice hardly melts. The continent is totally locked in ice. There is absolutely no chance of melting of this ice. The little chance of the ice melting is possible in the case of low-lying coasts and floating ice shelves. As the melting water accumulates on the surface of the continent, it leads to the creation of stress on the ice shelves and resultantly it starts flowing more rapidly into the oceans. According to the various models, by the end of the century, such a scenario will come up wherein warmer air will be more responsible for Antarctica’s contribution in increasing sea level than warmer ocean water. Alison Banwell, a CIRES postdoctoral visiting fellow believes that it is extremely important to generate a better understanding of the dynamics of Antarctica's 190 feet (58 m) of potential sea level rise. The situation of Antarctica is quite similar with that of Greenland. Greenland is a massive island and autonomous Danish territory between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It is majorly covered with ice. Its northerly position, largely above the Arctic Circle, leads to a natural phenomenon such as summer’s midnight sun and winter’s Northern Lights. These days even in Greenland the ice is melting. If at Antarctica also, the ice melts at the same pace, then definitely a substantial amount of this water will reach the ice sheet base and affect the flow of the ice into the ocean. The scenario will be same as it is in Greenland presently. The team of scientists including Banwell and her colleagues -- from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rowan University have recognized and chalked out key gaps in their understanding of the continent of Antarctica. It is of utmost importance to deeply understand the process for the scientists and researchers in order to better understand the phenomenon of global sea level rise. Resultantly, it would also help in reducing the risk posed to coastal dwellers all around the world due to increase in the sea level caused by melting of ice. We must understand and realize that the continent of Antarctica is changing and evolving. It is crucial to conduct researches on this subject with the help of field teams through airplanes and satellites.

By: Anuja Arora