The danger facing Antarctica

THE HANS INDIA |   Jan 18,2019 , 11:32 PM IST

The danger facing Antarctica
In the longest ever assessment of Antarctica's ice mass, scientists are reporting a rapid increase in melting - a six-fold increase in yearly Antarctic ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017. The East Antarctic ice sheet which was so far stable, has begun melting too. The speed of melting is expected to lead to disastrous sea level rise in the years to come. If you want to know how much ice is exactly now melting away here it is: 252 billion tons of ice per year is disappearing in areas once considered stable.  

Scientists do believe that as the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we can expect multi-metre sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries. This means that many coastal cities would be flooded displacing millions of people around the world. The present data has come from high-resolution aerial photographs taken by NASA planes, along with satellite radar from multiple space agencies. 

The ice-shedding till 1990 was around 40 billion tonnes on an average per year. The focus of late has been the Wilkes land sector of East Antarctica because this region is probably more sensitive to climate than has traditionally been assumed, and that is important to know, because it holds even more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula put together. 

The total amount of ice in the Antarctica, if it melts completely, would be enough to raise the sea levels by 57 metres. The East Antarctica ice sheet contains roughly half of Earth's freshwater. Warming ocean water will only speed up ice loss in the future and as per present calculations sea levels will continue to raise for centuries even if man stops all destructive activity. 

That is the damage we have wrought upon ourselves. This is global warming. 'Trump does not understand it anyway but the rest of the world knows. Human activity is acting as a force of nature, propelling what has been a very stable sea level during all of modern human civilisation back into overdrive. 

This melting is not just confined to Antarctica. Mount Kilimanjaro ice sheet has melted more than 80 per cent since 1912. Central and Eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035. How many years that is? Just 15 years or so? What happens to the countries dependent on Himalayas for their rivers? More so with someone like China diverting what else is left? 

Reports suggest that Spring freshwater ice breakup in the Northern Hemisphere now occurs nine days earlier than it did 150 years ago and autumn freeze-up ten days later. From the Arctic to Peru, from Switzerland to the equatorial glaciers of Man Jaya in Indonesia, massive ice fields, monstrous glaciers, and sea ice are disappearing fast. 

Both science and tourism have the potential to damage the very qualities that draw them to Antarctica. Another study is going on alongside on the solid Earth response to the ice melting processes in Antarctica. It is said it does not keep quiet and raises its bedrock. That is the only way Antarctica could be saved. Man is the dangerous most animal in nature. Let us know that.

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