Antarctica island's ice could reveal past, future
By The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013, 6:30 p.m.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Nancy Bertler and her team took a freezer to the coldest place on Earth, endured weeks of primitive living and risked spending the winter in Antarctic darkness, in order to go get ice — ice that records our climate's past and could point to its future.
They drilled out hundreds of ice cores, each slightly longer and wider than a baseball bat, from the half-mile-thick ice covering Antarctica's Roosevelt Island. The cores may total 150,000 years of snowfall.
Bertler hopes the material will help her estimate how long the Ross Ice Shelf would last under the current rate of climate change before falling apart.
Evidence from the last core her team hauled out needs further study, but it contains material that Bertler said appeared to be marine sediment that formed recently — at least in geological terms measured in thousands of years.
That would bolster scientists' suspicions that the shelf could collapse again if global temperatures keep rising, triggering a chain of events that could raise sea levels around the world.
“From a scientific point of view, that's really exciting. From a personal point of view, that's really scary,” said Bertler, a senior research fellow at the Antarctic Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington.
The ice shelf acts as a natural barrier protecting huge amounts of ice in West Antarctica, and that ice also could fall into the ocean if the shelf fell apart. Scientists say West Antarctica holds enough ice to raise sea levels by between 61⁄2 and 20 feet if significant parts of it were to collapse.
Bertler hopes the material she recovered will help her estimate by the end of this year whether it will take 50 years or 500 years for the ice shelf to collapse at the current rate of climate change.
Those answers should prove important for policymakers who she said may need to decide whether to build sea walls or move populations to higher ground.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Swedish journalist slain in Kabul
- Syrian civil war affects kids the most, U.N. says
- Pistorius’ former friend tells of fits of anger
- Guilty verdicts for 3 CIA agents upheld in Italy
- Teen’s death revives Turkish street demonstrations
- Malaysian military says missing jet changed course
- Ukraine’s Crimea seeks to become independent state
- Ukraine control of bases erodes
- Investigation into missing Malaysia flight centers on 2 men who boarded with stolen passports
- Ukrainian leader will meet Obama in U.S.
- 16,000 Russian troops spill into Ukraine