The Amundsen Sea might have already passed a tipping point that can make West Antarctica fall like dominoes
Antarctica is slowly and steadily melting away. According to another study, the continent has been losing 250 tons of ice annually. The rate at which it’s melting has increased six-fold since 1979.
One of the reasons is that the Amundsen Sea, across the coast of West Antarctica, might have already passed a tipping point. It’s grounding line — the edge where ice, ocean, and bedrock align — is “retreating irreversibly”.
Once it collapses, the entire West Antarctic ice sheet will topple like dominoes. This could raise sea levels by up to 3 meters.
And, East Antarctica is next in line
The coldest spot on Earth — East Antarctica — is also threatened by rising temperatures. Just like the Amundsen Sea in the West, the Wilkes Basin in East is similarly unstable. If enough of it melts, sea levels could increase by 3-4 meters.
Greenland’s ice could disappear within the next 10 years
Greenland ice sheet could be doomed even at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. It’s melting at an accelerated pace. The faster it melts — and the lower it gets — the glacier is exposed to warmer air that makes it melt quicker.
The combined effect of ice sheets melting could raise sea-level by 10 meters
Global warming is inevitable. The only thing that can still be controlled is how fast it gets warmer.
“At 1.5 °C, it could take 10,000 years to unfold; above 2 °C it could take less than 1,000 years,” says the study.
The ocean’s getting warmer and it’s killing Earth’s life support system
Coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse and productive ecosystems in the world — but they’re dying. Oceanic heat waves have already killed half the shallow-water corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Considered to be Earth’s ‘life-support system’, reaching a tipping point could trigger a massive carbon release back into the planet’s atmosphere. Not only would this worsen climate change, but emission budgets would have to be adjusted.
The world’s largest rainforest catches on fire — and nature’s not to blame
The Amazon — the world’s largest rainforest and the ‘lungs of the planet’ — was engulfed in flames this summer. This time, nature wasn’t to blame. Most of the fires were started by humans, to clear land for agricultural use, before they got out of control.
As much as 17% of the forest has already been lost since 1970. Anything exceeding 20% forest-cover loss could trigger a tipping point depriving the world of a primary oxygen resource.
Fires are also melting the Arctic
Source: Sentinel Satellite, EU
Unlike the rest of the world, the Arctic is warming at least twice as quickly. Regions that used to be carbon sinks are turning into carbon sources. Permafrost — thought to be as close to permanent as permanent can get, as the name implies — is thawing irreversibly.
As it melts, it’s releasing all the carbon dioxide and methane stored in its layers over centuries, back into the atmosphere.
Any combination of natural calamities could cause a ‘hothouse’ Earth
“In our view, the clearest emergency would be if we were approaching a global cascade of tipping points that led to a new, less habitable, ‘hothouse’ climate state,” says the study.
The researchers conclude that any number of interactions between ocean and atmospheric changes have the potential to increase greenhouse-gas levels and global temperature. And, they think that the cascading effects are recurring more frequently by the day.
Another study found that 45% of interactions resulting from the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet increased the risk of one tipping point crossing over from one system into another.
“Evidence is mounting that these events could be more likely than was thought, have high impacts and are interconnected across different biophysical systems, potentially committing the world to long-term irreversible changes,” the study concludes.