"Ice" cork may be holding back rise in sea levels - FOX 32 News Chicago

"Ice" cork may be holding back rise in sea levels

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

This is one cork that definitely shouldn’t be popped. It sits beneath the East Antarctic Ice Shelf which is the largest ice sheet in Antarctica.

Climate researchers from Potsdam, Germany say a tiny ice cork is blocking the ice sheet from sliding into the sea. Until recently attention has been focused on the West Antarctic Ice Shelf which was considered to be more unstable. However recent findings show that the Eastern Shelf may in fact be the more unstable area of ice especially near the Wilkes Basin region where the small ice cork has been discovered. Using computer simulations of the sea floor topography combined with raising water temperature projections from climate change scientists found that even a partial melt of this cork could cause a 500 mile retreat of the ice shelf and a 9 to 13 foot rise in sea levels over the next 10,000 years.

A similar loss of ice and rise in water levels occurred about 4.8 million to 3.5 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch when global climate was similar to the climate projections for the end of the 21st century. Experts believe that even if climate warming slowed or stopped sea level would still rise uncontrollably if the ice cork were pulled or destroyed.

The study findings were detailed in the May 4, 2014 journal Nature Climate Change.

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