The Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica (Credit: NASA)
Already melting in response to global warming, the Antarctic ice sheet may collapse if greenhouse gases aren’t curbed, scientists warn in a release from Victoria University of Wellington. If the ice sheet collapses, the sea level could rise by 60 meters, researchers found.
Furthermore, if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise to more than 600 parts per million, a level it could reach by the century’s end, scientists believe the giant East Antarctic ice sheet could break up. The West Antarctic ice sheet is already melting in response to climate change, researchers noted.
The scientists based their findings on Antarctic sediment cores taken from 1,500 meters deep under the seafloor, corresponding to a period 35 to 17 million years ago. The cores showed that the Antarctic ice sheet advanced and pulled back many times before becoming more stable when carbon dioxide levels were below 600 parts per million.
The Antarctic ice sheet is smaller now than at an earlier point in history when carbon dioxide levels were similar, exposing it more to warming effects.
Top image: The Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica (Credit: NASA)