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Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

Can Antarctic ice be saved?

Scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research believe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could be saved using artificial snow. The experts propose a solution involving pumping sea water onto glaciers and spreading it using snow cannons. However, implementing the project would be a highly complex operation.

Antarctica is one of the last untouched areas of the world, so the intervention would also carry significant environmental risk.

“The fundamental trade-off is
whether we as humanity want
to sacrifice Antarctica to save the currently inhabited coastal regions and the cultural heritage that we have built and are building on our shores. It is about global metropolises, from
New York to Shanghai, which in the
long term will be below sea level
if nothing is done,”

said Anders Levermann, a physicist with the Potsdam Institute and Columbia University, and a co-author of the study.

At present, that is where the continent’s ice is melting at the fastest rate, and its contribution to global sea level rise is increasing. “So we investigated what could stop a potential collapse in our simulations and increased the snowfall in the destabilised region far beyond observations. In fact, we find that an awful lot of snow can indeed push the ice sheet back towards a stabile regime and stop the instability. In practice, this could be realized by an enormous redisposition of water masses – pumped out of the ocean and snowed onto the ice sheet at a rate of several hundred billion tons per year over a few decades,” said co-author Johannes Feldmann.

More than ten thousand wind turbines would be required to produce energy for the desalinization and transportation of sea water. “Putting up such a wind farm and the further infrastructure in the Amundsen Sea and the massive extraction of ocean water itself would essentially mean losing a unique natural reserve. Further, the harsh Antarctic climate makes the technical challenges difficult to estimate,” Feldmann explained, and he also stressed that this gigantic project would only make sense if the Paris Climate Agreement is kept.

“The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is one of the tipping elements in our climate system. Ice loss is accelerating and might not stop until the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is practically gone,” said Anders Levermann Photo: Shutterstock

Source: MTI – Hungarian News Agency

Further information: Phys.org

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