Low Emissions Key to Limiting Sea-level Rise from West Antarctica

Nature Communications, 23 April 2024

Weakened deep ocean mixing and sea ice loss could tip currently stable regions of West Antarctica across a threshold into extensive retreat for thousands of years, and this outcome can only be avoided with steep cuts in carbon emissions. This study unravels past ice sheet behavior to predict how it will react to future warming. Geological records reveal that stable coastal areas along the Ross Ice Shelf dramatically retreated thousands of years ago when a lack of sea ice removed the natural cold-water barrier preventing warm ocean currents from eroding the ice shelf. While retreating regions of West Antarctica such as the Amundsen sector are already committed to produce a certain amount of sea-level rise this century, these findings reiterate the need for urgent mitigation to prevent stable regions from producing similar ice loss in the near future.

Full paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-024-47369-3
Plain-language briefing: https://theconversation.com/west-antarcticas-ice-sheet-was-smaller-thousands-of-years-ago-heres-why-this-matters-today-225670

By Amy Imdieke, Global Outreach Director, and Pam Pearson, Director of ICCI.
Published May. 14, 2024      Updated May. 14, 2024 10:42 am