Will the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet destabilize and contribute to global sea-level rise?
July 2016 until February 2018
120.000 € funded by AXA Research Fund: AXA Junior Research (Post-Doctoral) Fellowships Campaign 2015
Matthias Mengel
PIK number / OEH

Sea level has been rising by about twenty centimetres over the past century. Last year three independent publications showed that one part of the West Antarctic ice sheet has been destabilized. This part of the ice sheet will from now on continuously discharge ice into the ocean. The total amount of ice in this region will thus raise sea level by about one meter globally. The big question is whether the rest of West Antarctica could become unstable by this initial destabilization, potentially rising sea level by an additional 2.3 meters. The Potsdam Institute maintains one of the few continental-scale ice-sheet models for Antarctica worldwide. We are one of two groups that can answer this question of inter-basin ice instability, which is central for coastal regions all around the world. One meter of sea-level rise is a very significant increase, against which most coastal cities can still protect themselves. Three meters of sea-level rise, however, would be too big a challenge for many coastal regions. We thus propose to investigate whether a destabilization of the Pine-Island-Thwaites glaciers will cause the destabilization of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet.