Publication Date August 18, 2017

East Antarctic Ice Sheet Appears Stable - Staving Off A 200 Foot Sea Level Rise

East Antarctica
Photo: Shutterstock

Evidence points to the West Antarctic ice sheet instability and the potential for rapid melting due to climate change. The West Antarctic ice sheet is more susceptible to a warming planet because most of the ice sheet is grounded in the shallow shelf, submerged in water. This makes it susceptible to changes in ocean temperature and has sped up the rate at which it has melted. In contrast, the larger East Antarctic ice sheet sits almost entirely on bedrock above sea level, making it much less susceptible to climate change.

The East Antarctic ice sheet is 10 times larger than the West Antarctic ice sheet and estimates are that it would raise sea level nearly 200 feet if it completely melted. Hence the concern among scientists and the need to study the potential impacts of a melting West Antarctic ice sheet on its neighboring ice sheet.

A recent study validates that the core of the East Antarctic ice sheet should be stable if the West Antarctic ice sheet does melt entirely. They determined this by taking ice cores 400 miles from the South Pole in the polar plateau of East Antarctica. The research team was looking for evidence that the ice sheet was stable during previous glacial and interglacial times.