West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 greenhouse effect : a threat of disaster
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Over 40 years ago, the glaciologist John Mercer warned that parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were at risk of collapse due to the CO2 greenhouse effect. Mercer recognised the unique vulnerability of ice sheets resting on beds far below sea level (marine-based ice sheets), where an initial warming signal can initiate irreversible retreat. In this paper, we review recent work on evidence for ice sheet collapse in warmer periods of the recent geological past, the current behaviour of the ice sheet, and computer models used to predict future ice-sheet response to global warming. Much of this work points in the same direction: warming climates can indeed trigger collapse of marine-based portions of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and retreat in response to recent warming has brought parts of the ice sheet to the threshold of instability. Further retreat appears to be inevitable, but the rate of collapse depends critically on future emissions.
Benn , D I & Sugden , D E 2021 , ' West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO 2 greenhouse effect : a threat of disaster ' , Scottish Geographical Journal , vol. 136 , no. 1-4 , pp. 13-23 . https://doi.org/10.1080/14702541.2020.1853870
Scottish Geographical Journal
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
DescriptionDIB's contribution to this work is from the DOMINOS project, a component of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC). Support for DIB was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC: Grant NE/S006605/1). ITGC Contribution No. ITGC:025.
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