Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Better Understanding the Implications of Ice Melt in the Antarctic

Surprisingly, as of late, issues concerning ice berg ‘calving’ have not played a major role in producing sea-level rise estimates as a result of climate change. Calving is the release or breaking off of a mass of ice from a glacier, ice berg, or other large ice formations. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Jeremy Bassis and his colleagues, the role of calving will be better understood.

Dr. Bassis, of the University of Chicago’s Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, says that “Current models cannot predict about half of the sea ice balance." It appears that even though calving is connected with the speed-up of the ice-retreat process, the scientific community remains unclear as far as to what extent.

Bassis and his colleagues are working on a statistical methodology that allows them to predict the average iceberg calving rate and what different icy regions can expect in the years and decades to come as a result of climate change. Through this we should be able to have a better of idea of what icy areas will experience the greatest amount of melt, in the years to come, and we will have a more accurate picture of the global implications.

In a nutshell, as predictions state that sea level could rise anywhere from four inches to two and a half feet over the next hundred or so years, Bassis is working to narrow that wide margin, by better understanding calving’s contribution to sea level rise. With so much of the world’s population living near the coast, this is an imperative avenue of study.

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