Ice sheet retreat

...and Then There's Physics

It is quite regularly pointed out – by Steve Bloom and others – that the Pliocene (5 – 3 million years ago) is quite interesting since the temperatures were 2 – 3oC higher than today, sea levels were 20 – 25m higher than today, yet CO2 levels were about the same as today (400ppm). As I understand it, however, it’s never been clear why sea levels could be so much higher than today, since it would require a significant retreat of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) and this is something that models have not been able to simulate.

A recent paper by Pollard, DeConto and Alley (Potential Antarctic Ice Sheet retreat driven by hydrofracturing and ice cliff failure, however, has tried to address this issue. What this study suggests is that floating ice shelves may be drastically reduced or removed completely by increased oceanic…

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