A group of scientists suggests a revolutionary strategy to prevent the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet.
The fact that the west Antarctic ice sheet may slide into the ocean is a potential threat that could rise the sea-water level by more than 3 meters. This would have a major impact on the civilization and would completely alter the population distribution worldwide as numerous crowded cities are near the sea level. Scientists agree that even if greenhouse effect is mitigated, there is not enough time to prevent the displacement of the ice sheet.
However, researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), believe they have found a manner to stabilize the ice sheet. Their radical suggestion, published in the Journal of Science Advances, includes pumping water out of oceans and creating artificial snowfall onto the glaciers. “We are fully aware of the disruptive character such an intervention would have,” Johannes Feldmann, co-author of the study, stated.
“The apparent absurdity of the endeavour to let it snow in Antarctica to stop an ice instability reflects the breath-taking dimension of the sea-level problem. Yet as scientists we feel it is our duty to inform society about each and every potential option to counter the problems ahead. As unbelievable as it might seem: In order to prevent an unprecedented risk, humankind might have to make an unprecedented effort, too,” Anders Levermann, co-author of the study and physicist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Columbia University, stated.
The attempt is extremely challenging as it would require a vast amount of energy to power the snow canons that would produce the snowfall. It was estimated that the electric power needed is equivalent to 10.000 wind turbines. Moreover, the unique conditions and the climate of Antarctica will also pose a threat to the success of the attempt. Therefore, it is an innovative solution that may address the issue but its implementation is difficult and, thus, it should be carefully investigated. The researchers also state that their study will be effective on the condition that Paris Climate Agreement is kept and CO2 emissions are drastically reduced in the future.
Currently, a large region of West Antarctica has been surrounded by warm ocean currents and, thus, ice melting on the base of glaciers is accelerated. Moreover, many of those glaciers are at risk of collapse due to their unfavorable topography. Researchers conducted computer simulations to calculate the ice melting in the future and found that the situation is irreversible unless a radical solution is promoted.