Antarctica at Risk!

The National Science Foundation’s Atmospheric Research Observatory illuminated by the sun approaching South Pole sunset in 2014.

The 400 parts per million threshold has been reached at the South Pole!

According to NOAA, the threshold of irreversible climate disruption has been reached at the South Pole.  This has not occurred in 4 million years and is an indication that things are continuing to change at a rapid rate.

The latest article from NOAA dated June 15, 2016 and titled…

South Pole is last place on Earth to pass global warming milestone

According to Pieter Tans

“The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark,” said Pieter Tans, the lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “Global COlevels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise as it was predicted!

At the North Pole, the 400 parts per million milestone was reached in April of 2012.  It has only taken 4 additional years for the atmosphere to measure this amount of 30 day average readings at the South Pole!

This is actually what NOAA predicted would happen…“The northern sites in our monitoring network tell us what is coming soon to the globe as a whole,” said Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. “We will likely see global average CO2 concentrations reach 400 ppm about 2016.”

So what does this mean to us?

It simply means that the accelerated trend continues in Climate Change/Disruption. The human caused (Anthropogenic) addition of green house gases into our atmosphere through the combustion of carbon based fuels will direct where our climate takes us in the future.  Whether good or bad (probably mostly bad), we are committed as Pieter Tans states, to this change for our lifetimes.

What could a rapid ice melt in Antarctica do to our world?

A few years ago I read a newspaper article quoting Dr. Nancy Bertler, a research scientist with the Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. That should rapid ice melt occur in the Antarctic Region, and the Ross Ice Shelf break away from the continent and melt, the potential exists to raise sea levels 7 to 20 feet around the glove. Dr. Bertler continues to do research on what Anthropogenic Climate Change will do to the Antarctic.

This article occurred around the time of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy in 2011.  Sandys damages came primarily from storm surges caused by a 7 inch rise in sea level, and a warm gulf stream.  The damages cost 100 to 120 billion dollars to repair and to date repairs continue.

Dr. Bertler at that time felt that the potential for rapid ice melt might not occur until the end of the century.  Unfortunately the carbon dioxide levels are increasing at record levels and perhaps her estimate may be sooner rather than later. Pieter Tan continues in the latest article from NOAA on the South Pole to say…

“We know from abundant and solid evidence that the CO2 increase is caused entirely by human activities,” Tans said. “Since emissions from fossil fuel burning have been at a record high during the last several years, the rate of CO2 increase has also been at a record high. And we know some of it will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.”

NOAA based on Sandys’ impact even developed a Sea Level Rise tool so that future events could be mitigated during reconstruction.

I wonder how this tool will work following a rapid ice melt in the Antarctic?  Here are volume estimates for sea level rise if each ice cap melted. Keep in mind, it would have to be a heck of warming trend for each of those areas to melt.

rising sea levels


This is what Florida will look like when the sea levels rise 5 meters (17 feet).


florida sea level rise map



About rsingram

Environmental Specialist, Disaster Reservist, Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, Para-Archeologist
This entry was posted in Adaptation, Antarctica, Arctic Ocean, Carbon Dioxide, Environmental Policies, South Pole. Bookmark the permalink.

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