Unstable Amundsen Basin Could Contribute To Antarctic ‘Tipping Point’

By on November 10, 2015

A view of Antarctica’s ice sheet and mountains seen from a U.S. Air National Guard LC-130 aircraft during a flight to the South Pole in December 2012. (Credit: NASA/Christy Hansen)


Researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have learned that the relatively small Amundsen Basin, if destabilized, could act as a trigger causing melt of the entire Antarctic ice sheet, according to a release. A collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet could cause a sea level rise of 3 meters.

Computer simulations were used to show that several decades of warming oceans would be enough to cause a tipping point in the enormous Antarctic ice sheet, which could not be reversed for thousands of years. If the Amundsen Basin in particular destabilizes, scientists say that could be enough to cause irreversible melt.

Current information shows that the Amundsen Basin has already been showing a decline in stability. It is not clear that a rise in greenhouse gas emissions is the cause of Amundsen Basin instability, but more greenhouse gas emissions and further global warming would not help prevent Amundsen Basin and Antarctic ice sheet collapse.

Top image: A view of Antarctica’s ice sheet and mountains seen from a U.S. Air National Guard LC-130 aircraft during a flight to the South Pole in December 2012. (Credit: NASA/Christy Hansen)

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