Snowmobile party crossing blue ice of Balchen Glacier,Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica. Photo © Bruce Luyendyk
Have the Antarctic Ice Sheets reached the Point of No Return? My last entry was an excerpt from my memoir about flying past the Point of No Return (AKA Point of Safe Return) in route from Christchurch to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. This entry is about an entirely different PNR, that where the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is lost.
About the area of Mexico, if the WAIS melted entirely sea level would rise an average three meters around the world (ten feet).
WAIS stability means that the ice is not melting faster than it is forming and is not causing global sea level to rise. Scientists have found that this is not the case. The WAIS is now unstable and melting at a rate beyond the rate it can be replaced. Neither can the melting be slowed or stopped. The PNR has been past.
“If we have indeed lit the fuse on West Antarctica, it’s very hard to imagine putting the fuse out,” Dr. Alley said. “But there’s a bunch more fuses, and there’s a bunch more matches, and we have a decision now: Do we light those?”