Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

West Antarctica Total Disintegration - a worse case scenario?

  1. Dec 24, 2007 #1
    Antarctica has a total of 25.4 million km^2 of ice. West Antactica Ice Sheet (WAIS) has a volume of 2.2 million km^3 of ice. WAIS is that part of Antactica west of transantarctic mountains. The surface of earth is 510,072,000 km^2; while the ocean is 71% of such surface; giving 361 million km^2. So 2.2 million km^3 of ice / 361 million km^2 of ocean surface = 6.1 x 10^-3 km of sea surface rise from WAIS total melt. This is a 6 meter (18 feet) sea surface rise. However one has the caveat, that WAIS is approximately 1000 ft below sea level. So for average ice thickness of 4000 ft, then 1/4 of WAIS melt would seem to stay, forming an archipelago. Therefore resulting in only about 13.5 feet rise in sea level. This then is supposedly one of the worse case scenarios for global warming.
    See references:

    earth.http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 25, 2007 #2
    Times to disintegration?

    But over what time span? 100yrs or less, vs 200-500 or 1000 yrs?
  4. Apr 29, 2008 #3
    Sea surface rise from W. Antarctica melt

    Another approach to calculation of sea surface rise: West Antarctica ice sheet thickness is average of 2000 meters. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001218073333.htm"

    W. Antarctica has a maximum bed depth of -2500 m (i.e. below sea level). So if average depth of bed of W. Antarctica is -1500 m, then approximately 500 m. elevation above sea level for ice sheet. So then just 500 m. of ice x surface area of W. Antarctica would be distributed over world oceans since W. Antarctica is an archipelago. W. Antarctica S.A. is approximately equal to that of Western Australia or 2.6 million km^2. So for total ocean S.A. of 361M km^2, such latter S.A. is equivalent to 139 W. Antarctica; that is, 361M/2.6M = 139. So 500 meters or 1500 ft distributed over 139 W. Australia would give 1500/139 = 10.79 ft sea surface rise world wide.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  5. Apr 29, 2008 #4
    here is some likely cause of unstability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.


    Obviously, getting out of your SUV is not helping to stop these processes.
  6. Apr 29, 2008 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I do not want to hijack the thread but a related question,

    Would significant water depth increase put enough extra pressure on the sea bed, so that earthquake and volcanic activity increases globally?
  7. Apr 29, 2008 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There is not going to be more MATTER on earth, so I don't see how we could get a serious increase of pressure on the sea bed.

    If land ice melts, this becomes more *distributed* matter (what was all on one heap is now distributed all over the oceans), and when the water *expands* (because of higher temp) this is not going to change its total weight (and hence pressure).
  8. May 13, 2008 #7
    I did read about a possible link to volcanism.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/aug/07/disasters" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  9. May 14, 2008 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    First of all, that link is full of fearmongering material (especially now that it seems that the antarctic ice sheet is actually growing).

    But the point was *global* increase in pressure, which is impossible of course. What can happen is that the redistribution of matter shifts certain equilibria, and gives rise to more, or to less, tectonic activity.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  10. May 14, 2008 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Almost certainly more, I should think. The Antarctic continent would have less pressure on it, and the sea floor would have more. The crust would need to shift to adjust to the new distribution.

    But has anyone seen a map of what this scenario would mean for coastal regions?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook