Earth’s Tilt Could Accelerate Antarctica Ice Loss


Besides the surge in greenhouse gas emissions which exacerbate global warming, the Antarctic ice loss will also become more sensitive to the Earth’s tilt, at an astronomical scale. According to a new study, over the last 30 million years, the Antarctic ice sheets responded to the angle of Earth’s tilt.

Accordingly, due to Earth’s tilt, the ice in Antarctica interacts with those currents that bring warm water, accelerating the melting of the glaciers. Also, the scientists revealed that the effect of the angle of the Earth’s axis peaked when CO2 levels were high in the atmosphere. That would happen, too, in the next century, as previous studies revealed.

“Really critical is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said Stephen Meyers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the co-author of the new study. He added that extreme carbon dioxide and high-angled Earth’s tilt would be devastating for Antarctica.

Earth’s Tilt Might Accelerate Antarctica Ice Loss

To reach those conclusions, the scientists estimated the history of the Earth’s climate and studied the sediment records surrounding Antarctica. The research revealed where the ice sheets of Antarctica were during different eras. According to the results, between 34 million years ago and approximately 25 million years ago carbon dioxide levels were high, so the majority of Antarctica ice sheets were land-based, and were not in contact with the sea.

About 8 billion years ago, carbon dioxide levels dropped significantly, so the floating sea ice, as we see it know around the South Pole, started to grow, and the sensitivity of Antarctica to the Earth’s tilt diminished. However, the scientists said it’s not evident why there is a connection between Earth’s tilt, carbon dioxide levels, and Antarctica.

“Antarctica’s vulnerable marine-based ice sheets will feel the effect of our current relatively high tilt, and ocean warming at Antarctica’s margins will be amplified. Antarctic sea ice is clearly important. We need to push on and figure out ways to meet emissions targets,” concluded Richard Levy of GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and one of the co-authors of the study.


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