Sixty percent of Antarctica's nation-sized glacier plugs are vulnerable to fracture and collapse.

“Oh yes Sapiens, you hungry little monkey, it's all about you” comment via Greenland Ice Sheet — Ice Sheet Melting Is Perfectly in Line With Our Worst-Case Scenario, Scientists Warn

New research has found that 50-70% of Antarctica's glacier marine extensions are at risk of hydrofracture due to enormous meltwater lakes on the icy surfaces. This water can drain into cracks on the surface ice. It can fracture and shatter the glacier to the softened underbelly that has been eroded by warm ocean water. A collapse of the ice shelf leads to the loss of the resistance the cork provides in holding back the land ice from pouring into the oceans and increasing sea levels worldwide.

Antarctica's global heating effect is not just a threat to Florida, Bangladesh, and Shanghai from flooding and storm surges.

Our southern freezer is critical in reflecting solar heat to space, which keeps our weather conducive for our civilization to exist. Antarctica's cold water with high salt content plunges into the deep ocean. It drives the ocean circulation system that moves heat from one part of the globe to another.

The frozen continent links the Southern ocean's marine system with the physical system results in the sequestration of the carbon cycle. CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed and stored in the depths forever, making it a crucial piece of the carbon cycle and has saved us from blistering earth. The Southern ocean's ability to store carbon has fallen in recent decades.

Both West and East Antarctica along with Greenland are three of nine active climate tipping points, the loss of any of them would be game over for the planet.

Areas of Antarctic ice shelves buttressing glaciers vulnerable to hydrofracturing are shown in red. Blue areas adjoining the ocean are vulnerable too, but those portions do not help hold back glaciers. Smaller green and yellow areas closer to land are less vulnerable.
Areas of Antarctic ice shelves buttressing glaciers vulnerable to hydrofracturing are shown in red. Blue areas adjoining the ocean are vulnerable too, but those portions do not help hold back glaciers. Smaller green and yellow areas closer to land are less vulnerable.

Patrick Markham writes in The Guardian:

A new study says that many of the ice shelves ringing Antarctica could be vulnerable to quick destruction if rising temperatures drive melt water into the numerous fractures that currently penetrate their surfaces. The shelves help slow interior glaciers' slide toward the ocean, so if they were to fail, sea levels around the world could surge rapidly as a result. The study appears this week in the leading journal Nature.

Ice shelves are giant tongues of ice floating on the ocean around the edges of the continent. The vast land-bound glaciers behind them are constantly pushing seaward. But because many shelves are largely confined within expansive bays and gulfs, they are compressed from the sides and slow the glaciers' march—somewhat like a person in a narrow hallway bracing their arms against the walls to slow someone trying to push past them. But ice shelves experience a competing stress: they stretch out as they approach the ocean. Satellite observations show that, as a result, they rip apart; most are raked with numerous long fractures perpendicular to the direction of stretching. Fractures that form at the surface can be tens of meters deep; others, forming from the bottom, can penetrate the ice hundreds of meters upward. Some fractures are hundreds of meters wide.

Currently, most of the shelves are frozen year round, and stable. But scientists project that widespread warming could occur later in the century. And, existing research has shown that even subtle temperature swings can spur widespread melting. This could send melt water surging into the surface fractures. Such surges would potentially cause hydrofracturing-a process in which liquid water, heavier than ice, would violently force the fractures to zip open, and cause the shelf to rapidly disintegrate The new study estimates that 50 to 70 percent of the areas of the ice shelves buttressing the glaciers are vulnerable to such processes.

the South Pole.
The South Pole.

Dramatic changes in the vast Antarctic interior temperature swings result from the tropics working in tandem with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. This combination of variables has made Antarctica the fastest-warming region on earth. It has rapidly warmed three times the rest of the world, even surpassing the unraveling Arctic system.

Patrick Galey writes in Phys.org:

The South Pole has warmed three times faster than the rest of the planet in the last 30 years due to warmer tropical ocean temperatures, new research showed Monday.

Antarctica's temperature varies widely according to season and region, and for years it had been thought that the South Pole had stayed cool even as the continent heated up.

Researchers in New Zealand, Britain and the United States analyzed 60 years of weather station data and used computer modeling to show what was causing the accelerated warming.

They found that warmer ocean temperatures in the western Pacific had over the decades lowered atmospheric pressure over the Weddell Sea in the southern Atlantic.

This in turn had increased the flow of warm air directly over the South Pole—warming it by more than 1.83C (about 3.3F) since 1989.

Authors of the research said the natural warming trend was likely boosted by manmade greenhouse gas emissions and could be masking the heating effect of carbon pollution over the South Pole.

Lidar shooting into the Antarctic night sky, Arrival Heights Observatory.
Lidar shooting into the Antarctic night sky, Arrival Heights Observatory — ‘Lidar is a method for measuring distances (ranging) by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3-D representations of the target’. wiki

Sudden stratospheric warming is the Southern Hemispheres version of a polar vortex. The regular westerly winds shifted north toward the equator. They were likely responsible for the drought in Australia, which fueled the remarkable fire season of 2019 and 2020. The unrelenting flooding in parts of Africa followed by a locust infestation was a part of the same phenomena.

Warming in the Antarctic Stratosphere Affects Tropical Weather

The new frontier for weather forecasting lies in the stratosphere, which extends from 10 to 50 kilometers above Earth’s surface. Experiments show that improved understanding of stratospheric disturbances like sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs), when temperatures in the stratosphere can spike by more than 50°C in just a few days, can lead to better short- and long-term weather forecasts.

In September 2019, scientists recorded a rare Antarctic SSW that resulted in the largest September stratospheric temperature anomalies of the 40-year satellite record. Noguchi et al. used the event to investigate how this warming in the stratosphere affected weather in the tropics and around the globe.

Using the atmospheric general circulation model and ensemble prediction system from Japan’s Meteorological Research Institute (MRI-EPS), the authors ran a series of forecast experiments. They developed a “perfect stratosphere” forecast based on the atmospheric conditions during the event and compared it to a standard forecast that didn’t contain any anomalies.

The comparison revealed that Antarctic SSWs significantly affect convective activity in the tropics, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, and that SSWs contribute to the development of tropical cyclones and enhance the probability of extreme weather during the Northern Hemisphere summer and early autumn. The southern area of the Asian monsoon appears to be particularly sensitive to this disruption.

Shirase glacier, East Antarctica
‘The 58th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition had a rare opportunity to conduct ship-based observations near the tip of East Antarctic Shirase Glacier when large areas of heavy sea ice broke up, giving them access to the frozen Lützow-Holm Bay into which the glacier protrudes.’

In East Antarctica, it was believed that cold water cavities protected the ice shelves under the ice shelf. That was not the case. New research suggests that ice at Shirase glacier is melting more than the worrisome Totten glacier whose ice holds eleven sea-level rise feet.

Naoki Namba of Hokkaido University writes:

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“Our data suggests that the ice directly beneath the Shirase Glacier Tongue is melting at a rate of seven to 16 meters per year,” says Assistant Professor Daisuke Hirano of Hokkaido University's Institute of Low Temperature Science. “This is equal to or perhaps even surpasses the melting rate underneath the Totten Ice Shelf, which was thought to be experiencing the highest melting rate in East Antarctica, at a rate of 10 to 11 meters per year.”

Most studies of ocean-ice interaction have been conducted on the ice shelves in West Antarctica. Ice shelves in East Antarctica have received much less attention, because it has been thought that the water cavities beneath most of them are cold, protecting them from melting.

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The data suggests the melting is occurring as a result of deep, warm water flowing inward, toward the base of the Shirase Glacier Tongue. The warm water moves along a deep underwater ocean trough and then flows upward along the tongue's base, warming and melting the ice. The warm waters carrying the melted ice then flow outwards, mixing with the glacial meltwater.

Due to the pandemic, ground research on the climate has come to a screeching halt. It is, therefore, critical that satellites fill the void. The fossil fuel industry has funded Donald Trump, and not one single climate and environment policy has escaped his wrath.

His 2021 NASA Earth Sciences budget “proposal axes two telescopes and two Earth science missions. The most dangerous man on earth, Trump, must be soundly trounced in the coming election. He would have us flying blind on the climate as he has with his epic blunders in dealing with the COVID crisis.