Feeds

Antarctic ice formed at CO2 levels much higher than today's

Not going to melt any time soon, says boffin

High performance access to file storage

New research has shown that the mighty ice sheet covering the Antarctic froze into being when the world had a much higher level of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere than it does today.

By analysing ancient algae found in deep-sea core samples, Professor Matthew Huber and his colleagues determined that the mile-thick ice which now covers the south polar continent formed around 34 million years ago. At that stage the atmosphere held much more CO2 than it does now, some 600 parts per million (ppm) as opposed to today's level of 390 ppm.

There is often concern that the Antarctic ice sheet might melt due to global warming (though in fact, despite much publicity over losses of ice from the Western peninsula, Antarctic ice has been steadily increasing in extent for the last 40 years). It would seem that this is highly unlikely given current and near-future levels of atmospheric CO2: at current rates of increase it will take a century at least to reach 600 ppm, the level at which the ice sheet formed itself, and higher levels would be needed to actually start it melting.

Even once the process begins there won't be any need for our great-grandchildren to panic, according to Huber.

"If we continue on our current path of warming we will eventually reach that tipping point," he says. "Of course after we cross that threshold it will still take many thousands of years to melt an ice sheet."

The new research is published in premier boffinry mag Science, here. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.