From: USF Health - University of South Florida
Published December 14, 2017 10:18 AM

Melting of East Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Cripple Major U.S. Cities

The world’s largest ice sheet may be less stable than previously thought, posing an even greater threat to Florida’s coastline. The first-ever marine geologic survey of East Antarctica’s Sabrina Coast, published this week in Nature, concludes that some regions of the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet have been sensitive to climate change for millions of years. Much like the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, this region of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is grounded below sea level and local glaciers are experiencing ice mass loss due to ocean warming.

“Antarctica may seem far away from Florida, but all Floridians should care about what is happening in Antarctica,” said co-lead author Amelia Shevenell, PhD, associate professor at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, Tampa. “As ice melts, global sea levels rise. Most of Florida is at or several feet above sea level. We are already seeing the effects of rising seas caused by melting ice sheets and ocean warming. There is enough ice in our study region alone to raise global sea level by as much as 15 feet. This, in isolation, would be catastrophic to Florida.”

Shevenell, co-author Sean Gulick, PhD, research professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and their collaborators used marine seismic technology and ocean sediments to reconstruct the evolution of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in the Sabrina Coast region over the past 50 million years. Their research found that during past warm climates, when atmospheric temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations were similar to or slightly higher than today, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet was much wetter and more unstable than it has been in the more recent past, when global climates were generally cooler.

Read more at USF Health - University of South Florida

Photo: Amelia Shevenell, PhD, associate professor at the USF College of Marine Science, recovers sediment cores from the Sabrina Coast, East Antarctica.

Photo Credit: Steffen Saustrap / The University of Texas at Austin

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