Sep 11, 2015

Combustion of available fossil fuel resources sufficient to eliminate the Antarctic Ice Sheet

Ricarda Winkelmann, Anders Levermann, Andy Ridgwell, Ken Caldeira
Science Advances
  • States that the Antarctic Ice Sheet stores water equivalent to 58 m in global sea-level rise
  • Shows in simulations using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model that burning the currently attainable fossil fuel resources is sufficient to eliminate the ice sheet
  • Finds that with cumulative fossil fuel emissions of 10,000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC), Antarctica is projected to become almost ice-free with an average contribution to sea-level rise exceeding 3 m per century during the first millennium
  • Finds, consistent with recent observations and simulations, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes unstable with 600 to 800 GtC of additional carbon emissions
  • Finds that beyond this additional carbon release, the destabilization of ice basins in both West and East Antarctica results in a threshold increase in global sea level
  • Concludes that unabated carbon emissions thus threaten the Antarctic Ice Sheet in its entirety with associated sea-level rise that far exceeds that of all other possible sources