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- Antarctica has lost about 3 trillion metric tons of ice since | Science News
- Trying to Plant a Trillion Trees Won't Solve Anything
But the new study looks at another avenue of saving the glaciers by increasing snowfall onto the surface to thicken the ice. The process that could in theory stabilize them by adding heft that would push the grounding line—where the ice, seafloor, and ocean meet—further out to sea.
The findings show that adding up to 32 feet 10 meters of ice per year over the course of 10 years would be enough to protect the West Antarctic glaciers from completely destabilizing if our currently warmed-up climate stayed constant. That would amount to adding 7, gigatons or billion tons of ice. So yeah, there are a few slight technical impediments that would need to be worked out on the snowmaking end.
The study itself acknowledges that, noting that it would require pumping ocean water 2, feet meters in elevation to the glacier surfaces, desalinating said water, and then blowing it as snow or finding a way to store it long enough to freeze. This would require massive amounts of energy—the study notes the pumping alone would require 12, high-powered wind turbines to generate enough electricity—all in one of the harshest, most remote places on Earth. And the study notes, it might not even work, or it could have unintended consequences from dropping global sea levels a few inches due to all the water pumping to completely screwing up ocean circulation patterns.
We just laid out one possibility. That scientists are even laying out this seemingly wild-eyed scheme as a possibility illustrates a few things. Icebergs can take months to splinter apart, and smaller pieces will likely be around for years, said Dan McGrath, a glaciologist at Colorado State University.
He said Antarctic icebergs generally don't make it past South Georgia Island, a British territory in the south Atlantic. It's located roughly along the same latitude as the tip of South America. The ice shelf itself is relatively stable. After large icebergs broke away from nearby ice shelves in recent decades, they collapsed and the land ice they were buttressing tumbled into the sea.
The Larsen C shelf, however, has two points of bedrock protruding from the sea that essentially pin it in place. About 90 percent of the shelf is held back by those points, but scientists are closely monitoring fractures to see if they grow.
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The calving of icebergs is a natural process. While climate change is affecting Antarctica in a variety of ways, this week's event does not signal that the region is entering a new state. That is happening in the Arctic, which has already been dramatically reshaped by human-caused global warming, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers. Scientists do not believe Antarctica is in a precipitous state of warming right now. Yesterday, as news of the calving spread, many researchers were careful to note that they were not chalking it up to global warming.
Still, climate change did impact other icebergs and ice shelf collapses in the region recently.
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Meltwater ponds formed on the surface of the Larsen B shelf and weakened the ice as they pushed downward, causing it to crack and splinter apart. Researchers caution that the formation of the Larsen C iceberg does not mean Antarctica is breaking apart, but they also say climate change should not be ruled out.
Antarctica has lost about 3 trillion metric tons of ice since | Science News
Warmer ocean waters are eating away at the base of the shelf, according to McGrath of Colorado State University. The collapse of Larsen C itself will not lead to significant sea-level rise, but it could be a signal that other major changes are on the way. Scientists are now monitoring the shelf closely. And while it does not buttress a large amount of land ice, other ice shelves in Antarctica do hold back ice that makes sea levels rise. So, if Larsen C ultimately breaks up, researchers are concerned that could be a sign that other ice shelves holding back a large amount of land ice could cause oceans to rise.
Researchers in particular are paying attention to the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, which could raise sea levels by 10 feet if it collapses. One million pennies creates a wall four feet wide, five feet tall and one foot thick. This wall weighs nearly 6, pounds, or just over three tons! Stepping up to a billion, things start to change as we start imagining stacks of pennies the size of a typical school bus. Five school buses to be exact. Add another three zeros and we begin to enter into the realm of the age of the universe in years and the national debt in dollars — not pennies.
One trillion pennies would create a mind boggling cube with edges nearly as long as a football field.
Trying to Plant a Trillion Trees Won't Solve Anything
If only there were that many pennies in existence! Others have estimated as many as billion currently circulating. Since the first penny was minted in , until present-day, over billion pennies have been minted in the United States. Of course the final step here is to image fourteen 14 of these cubes of pennies. Each penny representing one dollar of the national debt. The physical representation of large numbers is an interesting way to wrap your head around what it means to say something is in the billions or trillions, and beyond.
It could fit in plastic grocery bag with ease!