Science reveals That Antarctica is f*cked up — And So Are We

By now you should be more than aware of how bad the… er… climate situation is on Earth. If you’re not: humanity is attacking itself and the only home it has. This by pumping gigatons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, clear-cutting forests that could help reduce those figures, growing and eating animals for food, and generally ignoring decades of warnings from the smartest people on the planet.

But, new data suggest that Antarctica, one of the seven continents and the largest repository of ice on Earth is melting faster each year.

The new survey came from a host of satellite data published earlier this month in the journal Cryosphere. Researchers, in reviewing telemetry, found that the continent has lost almost two teratons of ice in 2015 — or 2,000 gigatons. A whopping 90% of that was on the western side, which you can see in the satellite imagery above. According to NASA, the folks who often launch the probes that study this and help coordinate much of our atmospheric monitoring, this is almost certainly “in response to ocean warming.”

This data doesn’t conflict at all with anything we already knew. It is, however, a more holistic idea of the problem. The issue at hand is that the western sheet of ice is already inherently unstable. Further melting complicates that, and puts the whole sheet at critical risk. If the whole thing slipped into the sea, that could cause a rise of up to nine feet. That is beyond cataclysmic. It puts much of humanity at risk, because so many live on coastal areas (turns out humans like water and food, who knew?), many hundreds of millions would be displaced and the accompanying effects would be globe-spanning.

At this point, the only way to save the West Antarctic ice sheet would be to radically curtail emissions very soon. Most current estimates, however, suggest that we won’t be nearly so lucky.

Numerous gigantic icebergs have “calved” off the main sheet. Chunks the size of whole states have just… slipped into the sea. Thankfully, they don’t directly contribute to sea rise (though the reasons why are a bit complicated, and deal with how buoyant objects affect the volume of fluid they occupy). Icebergs are, however, critical as a sort-of wall to hold back the larger glaciers that sit further inland. As these walls fall, the melting of glaciers accelerates, making the problem worse.

I’ll be honest. I’ve written about climate change a lot. And it’s really, really hard to maintain any level of hope for the future. This is grim, folks. Looking at this data every couple of days leaves scars. Knowing that humanity is doomed and that so many are hell-bent on doing absolutely squat.

*long, heavy sigh while grabbing a whole bottle of bourbon*

Here’s to the end of the world. Hopefully, we can science our way out of it.

*downs the bottle*

Otherwise, we’re screwed.