Antarctica’s ‘sleeping giant’ could raise sea levels more than 16 feet, experts warn

Antarctica's 'sleeping giant' could raise sea levels more than 16 feet, experts warn

The collapse of Antarctica’s ‘sleeping giant’ could cause change on a planetary scale in the coming centuries, according to a new warning from scientists.

If the climate crisis continues on its current trajectory, then the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) alone could contribute about 3-10 feet (1-3 meters) of sea level rise around 2300, and 7-16.4 feet (2-3 meters). 5 m) for 2500.

The research, by an international team of scientists, was published in the academic journal on Wednesday Nature.

The team notes that this potentially catastrophic outcome of global warming could be avoided if the world meets the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Almost all countries signed up to the pact to play their part in limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or at least “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.

Currently, the planet has warmed by around 1.1ºC since the start of the Industrial Revolution. With greenhouse gas emissions, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels, continuing unabated, the planet is on track to reach 2.7ºC by 2100.

However, the research showed that if global temperatures stay well below 2C, the East Antarctic layer is expected to add less than half a meter to sea level rise by 2500.

If emissions are reduced, the “sleeping giant,” which contains most of the glacier ice on Earth, is predicted to be unlikely to increase sea level rise in the coming decades.

Although, some sea level rise will still be inevitable due to melting in West Antarctica and the Arctic region. In particular, the window of opportunity to avoid awakening the “sleeping giant” is fast closing, scientists warned.

The team looked at how the EAIS behaved during warm periods in Earth’s past and looked at existing studies to project how future emission levels will affect the coming centuries.

“A key lesson from the past is that the EAIS is very sensitive to even relatively modest warming scenarios. It is not as stable and protected as we once thought,” said co-author Professor Nerilie Abram, from the School of Research in Earth Sciences from the Australian National University.

“Achieving and strengthening our commitments to the Paris Agreement would not only protect the world’s largest ice sheet, but also slow the melting of other large ice sheets such as Greenland and West Antarctica, which are more vulnerable to global warming.”

Co-author Professor Matthew England of the University of New South Wales said satellite observations already show signs of ice thinning and retreat of the vast ice sheet, while Professor Matt King from the University of Tasmania said much more work was needed in East Antarctica.

“We understand the Moon better than East Antarctica. So we don’t yet fully understand the climate risks that will arise from this area,” Professor King said.

Professor Abram said scientists once thought East Antarctica was less vulnerable to the climate crisis than other polar regions, but that was no longer the case. Keeping the planet well below 2C is critical.

“This means that the fate of the world’s largest ice sheet is very much in our hands,” he added.

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