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S.T. Lee Lecture In Antarctic Studies

S.T. Lee Lecture In Antarctic Studies

Richard Alley (via Live Video-Link)

Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Through a Crevasse Darkly: An Update on the Future of the Antarctic Ice Sheet

Recent rapid changes have dispelled the comfortable view of a coldly aloof Antarctic ice sheet largely ignoring changes in its surroundings. Many new discoveries show that elements of Antarctic ice cover are surprisingly sensitive to warming and could accelerate sea-level rise. Even slight warming of water beneath ice shelves can speed ice flow to the ocean, as can puddling of meltwater on top of ice shelves to wedge open crevasses.

In the warmer distant past tens of millions of years ago the whole ice sheet was smaller and more dynamic, but even as recently as 3-5 million years ago new geological records indicate a notable reduction or disappearance of the smaller West Antarctic Ice Sheet when global average temperature was only 2-3ºC warmer than today.

Yet, translating these new results into useful predictions remains difficult, with no consensus on whether future changes in the ice sheet will be fast enough to matter to modern policymakers. In the words of the IPCC "...understanding...is too limited to...provide a best estimate or an upper bound for sea level rise". Fortunately, that understanding is coming, and useful projections may become possible soon.

Tuesday 20th May, 2008

Ilott Theatre, Wellington Town Hall

111 Wakefield Street

Wellington

Lecture 12.30pm

Preceded by a lunch at 12.00pm

Forum 1.20-1.50pm

Panel:

Dr. Nancy Bertler - Antarctic Research Centre

Prof. Jonathan Boston - Institute of Policy Studies

Dr. Andrew Mackintosh - School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences

Prof. Martin Manning - Climate Change Research Institute

Moderator:

Prof. Peter Barrett - Antarctic Research Centre, Climate Change Research Institute

ENDS


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