Archive for May 1st, 2020

Another Antarctica Melt Warning

May 1, 2020

A brand new NASA satellite was launched. It is probing the surface of the planet thanks to six lasers. It sends millions of photons down, gets back in the average just 60 per pulse… And with exquisite electronics, compute. It finds where ice accumulates, etc. … Unexpectedly, it enables to see under water down to 40 meters, enabling to chart coral reefs (which are uncharted where water is less than five meters deep, because boats can’t get there, as it’s too shallow). In any case I looked at the map, which is below, and it was not surprising, except for one detail…

The Brand New Satellite ICE2 reveals where Antarctica is losing mass (deep red) and where it is acquiring some… due to warming: the more the heat rises, the more water storms carry, so the more it snows.

Thus ICE 2 will be able to monitor coral reefs, an unexpected bonus.

But it was launched to find out how fast ice is melting. What struck me is the two largest red regions in East Antarctica (to the right above). The upper one corresponds to the Denman glacier, see:

the lower red region corresponds to the Totten Glacier, the frozen gateway to the immense Aurora basin.

If those gateways fail, warm ocean water will sneak below the continent, melt 4 kilometers of ice. 

When the virus came, everybody was surprised. Nobody reading this site should have been. It would be like being surprised that the Launch On Warning (LOW) system failed and nuclear Armageddon started because of a short circuit: I have warned for years that this was a possibility.

The melting of Antarctica is a certainty, not just a possibility. the only question is when… and to “flatten the curve”…

So far Antarctica melting has contributed perhaps a centimeter of sea level in two centuries. Nothing much. Greenland contributes more. So far. One day soon, though, it will contribute several centimeters every few months… The time to stop it is now. As fossil fuel usage collapses in the present crisis, let’s make our utmost to keep it collapsed. For example both the importers and exporters of Australian coal should be struck. Enough with the toothless Paris accord, time for sanctions!

When sea level starts to rush up, one billion people will have to evacuate. Let no one say it was a big surprise…

Patrice Ayme