This story was initially revealed by the Guardian and is reproduced right here as a part of the Local weather Desk collaboration.
Scientists are engaged on an uncommon plan to stop Antarctic glaciers from melting. They need to construct a set of big underwater curtains in entrance of ice sheets to guard them from being eroded by heat sea water.
Ice in polar areas is now disappearing at file charges as international warming intensifies, and pressing motion is required to decelerate this loss, the worldwide group of scientists has warned.
Their proposed answer is the development of a 62-mile-long (100 km) curtain that might be moored to the mattress of the Amundsen Sea. It will rise by about 656 toes (200 meters) from the ocean flooring and would partially limit the influx of comparatively heat water that laps on the bases of coastal Antarctic glaciers and undermines them.
The Seabed Curtain challenge, if applied, can be one of many largest geo-engineering programmes ever undertaken. “It will be a large challenge — however then we face a huge drawback,” glaciologist John Moore of Lapland College advised the Observer final week.
“The melting of glaciers in Antarctica would may set off catastrophic flooding across the planet and lead to a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of individuals shedding their properties. That will likely be extremely dangerous for civilization as we all know it, so we have to do one thing.”
The curtain proposed by Moore — who’s working with scientists on the College of Cambridge and different facilities within the US — would stretch alongside the seabed reverse the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers. These act as plugs that stop the large ice sheets behind them from sliding into the ocean.
Scientists warn that the lack of the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers might be sufficient to lift sea ranges around the world by three meters in the event that they melted, a prospect now thought of to be an actual menace as international warming takes a grip of the area and causes sea temperatures to rise.
“Glaciers are affected by hotter air which melts their surfaces however they’re additionally eroded at their bases by heat seawater,” mentioned Shaun Fitzgerald, director of the middle for local weather restore on the College of Cambridge, one of many companions within the scheme. And because the oceans heat because the planet heats up attributable to local weather change, the extra intense is the erosion of ice on the bases of those glaciers.”
Constructing a curtain that restricts the move of heat water on to the Antarctic coast may gradual the undermining of those glaciers and so cut back the chance of their catastrophic disappearance, say the scientists. They envisage constructing a sequence of seabed curtains and are set to start analysis to pinpoint one of the best supplies for his or her development.
“We aren’t going to do that with a single sheet of material, and we’re not excellent, sealing membrane,” added Fitzgerald.
One thought can be to make use of air as a barrier for shielding glaciers. A pipe – with holes drilled alongside it – can be laid down alongside the seabed and air pumped via it. The curtain of air bubbles that might rise from it’d then have the ability to maintain again the ingress of heat seawater.
“We don’t know if that can work since we’re solely at a really early stage in our work,” added Fitzgerald.
“We have to examine how salinity impacts water move and perform all kinds of pc simulations and the testing of mathematical fashions. Then we will likely be prepared for the primary bodily exams.”
These exams are scheduled to be carried out on the River Cam later this 12 months, when varied fashions will likely be examined underwater.
“After that we are going to start to work on a much bigger scale,” added Moore. “We’d go to a fjord in Norway to construct a prototype, for instance.
“Actually this isn’t going to be one thing that will likely be accomplished in a hurry. It’s going to take a few years. On the opposite hand, we do want to begin planning now.”