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East Antarctic Ice Sheet May No Longer As Stable As It Seems, New Study Warns

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is not as stable as previously thought it was. A new study has indicated that the ice sheet has a long history of expanding and shrinking due to climate change.

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Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor

Austin, TX, United States (4E) – A new study has warned that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet may no longer be as stable as previously thought it was. The ice sheet in the region with its long history of expanding and shrinking due to climate change has the potential to raise the global sea level from 3 to 5 meters. In a study published on December 14 in the journal Nature, the researchers said the region is likely to be susceptible to climate change because they flow from the Aurora Basin, East Antarctica’s region that lies mostly below sea level. The study led by The University of Texas Austin and the University of South Florida had collected geophysical and geological data from the first oceanographic survey of East Antarctica’s Sabrina Coast. It was found out that the glaciers in the Aurora Basin were stable only for the last few million years, study co-lead author Sean Gulick, a research professor at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) and the Department of Geological Sciences, said. “It turns out that for much of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet’s history it was not the commonly perceived large stable ice sheet with only minor changes in size over millions of years,” he said. Recent data collected from the region, Gulick said, had indicated that the ice sheet is dynamic as it “grew and shrank significantly between glacial and interglacial periods.” “There were also often long intervals of open water along the Sabrina Coast with limited glacial influence,” he added. The researchers were able to determine how the ice sheet in the region had grown and shrunk for the past 50 million years with the help of marine seismic technology. Samples of mud taken from 1 to 2 meters below the seafloor helped to determine the age of the samples. The data revealed that the ice sheet had advanced from the Aurora Basin and shrank again 11 times the last 20 million years. The young ice sheet, according to researchers, was wetter than it is today with a network of channels underneath where the melted ice flows. “We shouldn’t view this as one ice sheet that suddenly grew to its present size, but rather one that was a transient ice sheet that expanded every couple million years or so,” Gulick said. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet had stabilized about six million years ago but the increasing global air temperatures due to climate change may cause the melting of the glaciers in the region. At present, the glaciers in the Sabrina Coast and that of the Aurora Basin are thinning due to the warming of ocean waters nearby. Study co-lead author Amelia Shevenell said the melting of Toten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest glacier as an early warning sign of the impending instability of ice sheet in the region. Shevenell is an associate professor in the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. “A lot of what we are seeing right now in the coastal regions is that warming ocean waters are melting Antarctica’s glaciers and ice shelves, but this process may just be the beginning,” she said. “Once you have that combination of ocean heat and atmospheric heat – which are related – that’s when the ice sheet could really experience dramatic ice mass loss,” Shevenell said.

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Environment

Antarctica’s Ice Melt has Sped-up by 280%, Stoking Sea-Level Rise

The rate of the ice melting in Antarctica has accelerated by an unacceptable 280% over the last four decades, setting the stage for catastrophic sea-level rise in the future.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Oakland, CA, United States (4E) – The rate of the ice melting in Antarctica has accelerated by an unacceptable 280% over the last four decades, setting the stage for catastrophic sea-level rise in the future.

Two new studies released tell the same foreboding message — our planet’s ice is melting at a frightening rate. The first harmful effect of this dangerous development: higher sea-level rise.

Ice loss in Antarctica increased from 40 gigatons (or one billion tons) per year from 1979 to 1990 all the way up to 252 gigatons per year from 2009 to 2017, a six-fold increase. This published study led by the University of California (UC) also found the melt-rate has accelerated in the most recent decades. The melt rate hit 280% in the second half of the nearly 40 years compared to the first half.

Antarctica’s crucial ice sheet has been melting for the entire 39 year period, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, said Eric Rignot, who led the UCV study.

“Antarctica is melting away,” said Rignot, (and) “not just in a couple of places.”

Antarctica holds most of the Earth’s ice. If melted, the Antarctic ice will cause the average sea level to rise 57.2 meters or 188 feet.

Another alarming finding in the study is that East Antarctica has seen a lot of melting over the same 39 year period. This challenges the traditional scientific view the East Antarctic ice sheet is relatively stable and resistant to change. The study also confirms the West Antarctic ice sheet accounts for most of the recent ice loss.

“I did not expect the cumulative contribution of East Antarctica melt to be so large,” said Rignot.

He noted the finding is significant because “melting is taking place in the most vulnerable parts of Antarctica…parts that hold the potential for multiple meters of sea level rise in the coming century or two.”

Another published study compared the geologic record of Antarctica’s ice with the known astronomical motions of the planet and the wobbling of the Earth’s tilt.

Researchers were able to re-create a broad history of the Antarctic ice sheet going back 34 million years to when the ice sheet first formed. They documented multiple cycles of ice growth and decay.

The study said that some 15 million years ago, when Earth’s atmosphere was supercharged with carbon dioxide, oceans warmed and sea ice around Antarctica disappeared. This event caused a significant part of the Antarctic ice cap to melt and dramatically elevate global sea levels.

“What this study does is characterize the growth and decay of the Antarctic ice sheet and sheds light on what is forcing it to change,” explains Stephen Meyers of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the study’s co-authors along with Richard Levy of New Zealand’s GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington.

Levy and Meyers found that sea ice, or the thin frozen layer of ocean water that surrounds Antarctica, plays a critical role in protecting the miles-deep ice on the continent from the warmer ocean that surrounds it.

“Sea ice creates a barrier between the ocean and the ice,” said Levy.

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Environment

Fight vs Climate Change Given Teeth with New Rules

The rules that will implement the 2015 Paris Agreement have been approved by nearly 200 countries following a contentious and sometimes rowdy series of meetings in Katowice, Poland.

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Katowice, Poland (4E) – The rules that will implement the 2015 Paris Agreement have been approved by nearly 200 countries following a contentious and sometimes rowdy series of meetings in Katowice, Poland.

United Nations’ member countries party to the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference will implement the new rules in 2020. The new rules are detailed in a 156-page rulebook broken down into themes. These themes include how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions and update their emissions plans.

The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference is the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). It’s informally known as the Katowice Climate Change Conference and was held from Dec. 2 to 15. It was held to give flesh to the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. It also seeks to limit the increase to 1.5°C since this level will greatly reduce the risks and effects of climate change.

Proponents of the new rules consider them a good foundation for countries to go about implementing the Paris Agreement.

“It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical,” said Michal Kurtyka, the Polish president of the talks. “Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together. You can feel proud.”

Before the Katowice talks began, many expected the deal might not be as robust as it needed to be. The unity palpable at the Paris talks has weakened, mainly due to Trump’s ignorant opposition to the existence of climate change and global warming.

One of the talk’s leaders complained about the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line. He said this shows that some nations — especially Trump’s America — have not woken up to the urgent call of the report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC in October warned that keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5C will need “unprecedented changes” in every aspect of society.

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Largest Known Diamond in North America Unearthed in Canada

The largest diamond ever discovered in North America — a gem weighing-in at 552 carats – was recently unearthed in Canada.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Northwest Territorries, Canada (4E) – The largest diamond ever discovered in North America — a gem weighing-in at 552 carats – was recently unearthed in Canada.

Canadian mining company Dominion Diamond Mines said the yellow diamond was unearthed in October at the Diavik Diamond Mine located in Northern Canada about 135 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

This still unnamed diamond, which is about the size of a chicken egg, is the seventh-biggest this century. Dominion Diamond Mines called the gemstone “astonishing.”

The company said abrasion markings on the surface of the 552 carat gemstone attest to the difficult journey it underwent during recovery, and the fact that it remains intact is remarkable.

Dominion CEO Shane Durgin said the diamond is gem quality. This means the gemstone is suitable for jewelry.

Since it’s still being evaluated, this diamond’s ultimate worth hasn’t been determined. It will not be sold in its rough form and will be polished to ramp-up its value.

The 552 carat gem is almost three times the size of the Diavik Foxfire, which is next largest stone ever found in Canada. Diavik Foxfire is a 187.7 carat gem-quality diamond unearthed in the same mine by the Rio Tinto Group.

it was later turned into a pair of yellow earrings, which sold for more than $1.5 million. That stone is about one-third the weight of this new diamond.

Yellow stones typically sell at a discount to Type IIa top whites often found in the best African mines. The highest quality fancy vivid yellow or fancy intense yellow stones can sell for a premium.

In 2015, a 1,111 carat diamond was discovered at a mine in Botswana. The size of a human palm, it came second to only the 3,106 carat Cullinan diamond, which was found in 1905 in South Africa.

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