Sunday, March 05, 2006

Glad I Scuba Dive

Antarctica Cannot Replace Ice Loss
Study finds continent is shrinking faster than it can grow. Experts say changes to the global water cycle could hasten the pace of sea-level rise.

By Robert Lee Hotz
Times Staff Writer

March 3, 2006

The ice sheets of Antarctica — the world's largest reservoir of fresh water — are shrinking faster than new snow can fall, scientists reported Thursday in the first comprehensive satellite survey of the entire continent.

Researchers at the University of Colorado determined that between 2002 and 2005 Antarctica lost ice at a rate of 36 cubic miles a year, rather than growing from heavier snowfalls as had been predicted. That amount of ice is equivalent to about 30 times the fresh water used by Los Angeles every year.

By previous calculations, Antarctica's coastal glaciers shed enough meltwater every year to raise sea levels by 0.02 of an inch, even as new snow falling in the interior locked up the same amount in the icecap. The result was that sea level remained more or less the same from year to year.

"A little bit of change in one of these things could throw it all out of balance and, evidently, that is what is going on," said University of Colorado geophysicist John Wahr, who helped analyze the new satellite measurements.

Portions of the Antarctic coast are 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 60 years ago, research has shown.
Naturally, what this indicates is that the Great Conveyor, a worldwide heat tranfer method generated by deep-ocean currents, will be cut short. Currently, (no pun intended) it comes all the way up the east coast of the United States, mitigating our temperature extremes a little, and crosses over towards Europe as a result of the Coriolis effect, warming up Ireland and England as well as much of northern Europe.

For example, Rome is roughly at the same latitude as New York City, yet suffers none of the very cold weather that we do. Should the conveyor stop, or cut short, the cold arctic air that is kept at bay from Europe by the warm air rising off the Gulf Stream would dig deep into Europe, and the Arctic air that is kept away from the east coast, save for the occasional Alberta Clipper we see, will knife into the heart of the most populous megalopolis in the world.

Something to think about on this unusually cold March morning.