Scientists React to Unsettling East Antarctica Shelf Collapse

April 2, 2022

The recent Conger Ice Shelf collapse in East Antarctica made me recall a 2013 video, above, which featured several researchers, but specifically my conversation with Carys Cook of Imperial College, London. Money quotes start at about 2:30 in if you are in a rush. (video is 6 minutes and change)
Got to admit, it’s kind of unsettling.

Below, CBS News wrap of the recent unexpected collapse of an East Antarctic ice shelf the size of New York City.

More detail below:

The Weather Network:

The Conger Ice Shelf in East Antarctica, thought to be stable and relatively unaffected by climate change, completely disintegrated in mid-March. Here’s what the experts are saying about this event.

Just a few weeks after scientists logged the smallest sea ice extent for Antarctica in over 40 years, temperatures soared across the eastern part of the continent to roughly 30°C higher than normal. In the aftermath, satellite imagery captured something completely unexpected. The Conger Ice Shelf — a roughly 1,200 square kilometre sheet of glacial ice along the coast of East Antarctica — had shattered in just a matter of days.

Iceberg calving is nothing new to Antarctica.

“The breaking and detachment of parts of ice shelves is a natural process,” glaciologists Hilmar Gudmundsson, Adrian Jenkins, and Bertie Miles wrote in a piece penned for The Conversation. “Ice shelves generally go through cycles of slow growth punctuated by isolated calving events.”

“But in recent decades, scientists have seen several large ice shelves undergoing total disintegration,” they explained.

According to Gudmundsson, Jenkins, and Miles, the exact cause of the Conger Ice Shelf collapse is unclear. While the collapse occurred at roughly the same time as the ‘heat wave’ that impacted East Antarctica, it appeared to begin before those weather patterns developed. Thus, the timing may only be a coincidence.

Floating ice shelves have already been contributing to global sea levels for much longer than we have been measuring it. However, if those ice shelves disappear, it allows more ice to flow over the water from on land, and that new ice pushing out over the water causes global sea levels to rise.

The Larsen ice shelves are perhaps the most infamous so far. Located near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, Larsen A collapsed in 1995, while Larsen B disintegrated in 2002. In early February of 2022, a large mass of multi-year sea ice had accumulated and frozen itself to the shoreline of the Larsen B embayment. This ‘landfast ice’ was seen to slow the advancement of the glaciers around the embayment somewhat, but then that ice completely broke apart in a matter of days.

Larsen C, located farther south along the peninsula, calved off iceberg A-68, which held the title as largest iceberg in the world from 2017 to 2021. The rest of Larsen C continues to hold fast. Still, scientists are watching it closely as Larsen A and B collapses were preceded by large icebergs breaking away.

4 Responses to “Scientists React to Unsettling East Antarctica Shelf Collapse”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    What’s happening in the West Antarctic?
    It’s been about 8 years since there were reports of a “Holy Sh**” moment where glaciologists like Eric Rignot were saying it was doomed, that it may have passed the point of no return

  2. redskylite Says:

    “Unsettling” – that’s a very mild way to put it, well mustn’t be alarming must we.

    =================================
    “This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree (Celsius, or 2.7-degrees Fahreinheit) limit” that was agreed in Paris in 2015.

    https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1115452


    • LOL! Right. God forbid someone be alarming when their house is on fire. SMDH… Methinks we can do away with that thinking that anything will remain unaffected by climate catastrophe.


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