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London: A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West Antarctic ice masses and they may disappear within the next 1,000 years, says a study.
"Given a business-as-usual scenario of global warming, the collapse of the West Antarctic could proceed very rapidly and the West Antarctic ice masses could completely disappear within the next 1,000 years," said one of the study authors, Johannes Sutter from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany.
As temperatures rise, ice masses melt and in consequence the global sea level rises and threatens the coastal regions.
"If the ocean temperature rises by more than two degrees Celsius compared with today, the marine-based West Antarctic ice sheet will be irreversibly lost. This will then lead to a significant Antarctic contribution to the sea level rise of some three to five metres," Sutter noted.
The findings were published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
For the study, the researchers analysed the changes to the Antarctic ice sheet in the last inter-glacial period and applied their findings to future projections.
The climate scientists used two models in their study. A climate model that includes various Earth system components such as atmosphere, oceans and vegetation, and a dynamic ice sheet model that includes all basic components of an ice sheet (floating ice shelves, grounded inland ice on the subsurface, the movement of the grounding line).
Two different simulations were used with the climate model for the last inter-glacial period to feed the ice sheet model with all the necessary climate information.