ROSS ICE SHELF COULD 'COLLAPSE QUICKLY'

news.com.au
November 29, 2006

//www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,20840754-23109,00.html

Scientists working in Antarctica fear the Ross Ice Shelf, an ice platform the size of France, could collapse quickly and trigger a rapid rise in sea levels.

A research team drilling in the frozen continent has recovered three million years of climate history, New Zealand newspaper The Press reported today.

An analysis of sea floor samples near Scott Base suggested the Ross Ice Shelf had collapsed before, probably suddenly.

Scientist Tim Naish said the sediment record gave crucial evidence about how the Ross Ice Shelf would react to climate change.

"If the past is any indication of the future, then the ice shelf will collapse," he told the newspaper.

"If the ice shelf goes, then what about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet? What we've learnt from the Antarctic Peninsula is when once buttressing ice sheets go, the glaciers feeding them move faster and that's the thing that isn't so cheery."

Antarctica stores 90 per cent of the world's water, with the the West Antarctic Ice Sheet holding an estimated 30 million cu km.

In January, British Antarctic Survey researchers predicted that its collapse would make sea levels rise by at least 5m, with other estimates predicting a rise of up to 17m.

Mr Naish, a sedimentologist with the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, said the team was retrieving a detailed history of the ice shelf.

"We know from the Larsen Ice Shelf (which collapsed on the Antarctic Peninsula in 2002) that they go extremely quickly," he said.


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