Michio Kaku And Others Theorize: Why Did A Trillion Ton Ice Shelf Break Off Antarctica? [Video] [Opinion]

Michio Kaku and many other scientists are speculating on why the trillion ton, 2,500-square mile Larson ice shelf C broke off Antarctica and is floating away. The Antarctic Larson ice shelves A and B have already broken off, going to a similar fate.

Michio Kaku blames global warming and climate change. That is a popular theory. Related to Michio Kaku’s thought, Australian scientists are blaming strengthening westward winds, according to NDTV. There is also conflicting data from NASA about losses in the Antarctic ice.

The Larson ice shelf in Antarctica was just that, an ice shelf. Though Antarctica’s ice covers an enormous land mass, larger than the continental United States. Still, the Antarctic ice shelf was already sitting in the ocean so it’s breaking off and melting will not change the sea level at all according to Peter D. Ward and Michio Kaku’s discussion in the video below, despite its massive size.

Michio Kaku interviewed Peter D. Ward author of The Flooded Earth: Our Future In A World Without Ice Caps in the video below. Ward has theorized what would happen if all the ice on earth melted, how long that would take, and why it might happen.

The Larson ice shelf is ice that rests on water, and that makes it completely different than ice that sits on land, according to Peter D. Ward, who wrote The Flooded Earth. Peter D. Ward told Michio Kaku that ice sheet collapse is what scientists are really worried about.

“All the North Polar ice caps can melt away and it will have no effect, essentially, on sea level. It is the ice on land, the ice sheets which – the biggest of which are Greenland and Antarctica. Anything that melts on those goes directly into the ocean. And raises the level of it. And the biggest and scariest scenario is equivalent to what we call an ice sheet collapse.”

Michio Kaku theorizes that the earth is warming due to the impact of mankind on the planet. Michio Kaku is not alone in this concept. It is an idea that has been strongly championed by many if not most scientists, studying earth’s climate.

Paul Spence, from ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System, explained to NDTV that the winds coming from East Antarctica are to blame. These East Antarctic winds cause sea-level disturbances that reach 700 kilometers per hour stirring up Kelvin waves of ocean water that then drive warmer water into the base of the Western Antarctic ice shelves.

“It is this combination of available warm water offshore, and a transport of this warm water onto the shelf, that has seen rapid ice shelf melt along the West Antarctic sector over the past several decades.”

Like Michio Kaku and Peter D. Ward, Paul Spence believes in climate change. Spence believes even these westward winds are related to climate change or global warming. Further, Paul Spence says something must be done and soon.

“If we do take rapid action to counter global warming and slow the rise in temperatures, southern storms tracks are likely to return to a more northerly position. That may slow the melting in Western Antarctica and bring more reliable autumn and winter rains back to the southern parts of Australia. It would also limit ocean warming and give some of the world’s major marine-terminating ice sheets a chance to stabilize.”

According to Michio Kaku and Peter D. Ward, if West Antarctica’s ice sheets were to break up and melt, sea levels around the planet would rise about six feet at a minimum.

Globe showing Antarctica
Globe showing Antarctica [Image by Harvepino/Shutterstock]

Peter D. Ward explained to Michio Kaku the importance of Antarctica Larson ice shelves. The real risk in the splintering of Larson ice shelves A, B, and C is that these ice shelves served to prevent the Western Antarctica ice sheets from sliding into the ocean. The Larson shelf formed a barrier that held these massive ice sheets in place.

NASA, however, has some information that seems to counteract the loss of the Larson ice shelves in Western Antarctica discussed by Michio Kaku and Peter D. Ward at least for now. It seems that as the ice in Western Antarctica is shrinking, the ice in Eastern Antarctica is growing at an even faster rate.

NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally authored a study, which was published on Oct. 30 in the Journal of Glaciology. Zwally is quoted by NASA.

“We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica. Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica – there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas.”

Like Michio Kaku and Peter D. Ward, Jay Zwally does foresee problems in the future, even though currently gains in the Eastern Antarctic ice are more than making up for the loss of Western Antarctic ice.

“If the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years — I don’t think there will be enough snowfall increase to offset these losses.”

Could Michio Kaku’s guest, Peter D. Ward, be worried over nothing? Will the Western Antarctic ice loss be countered by gains in Eastern Antarctica? Apparently not. For whatever reason, sea levels are rising, according to Jay Zwally.

“The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away. But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”

Michio Kaku is the co-founder of the String Theory
Michio Kaku by Evan Agostini AP

Michio Kaku asked Peter D. Ward about the potential impact of rising sea levels. It isn’t at all as simple as one first thinks. It isn’t just a matter of sea front land being gradually swallowed by the ocean. Storm surge and the salinization of soil would destroy sea level crops. During storms, increased salt water flooding will salt the soil, killing all fresh water plant life.

Peter D. Ward also explained to Michio Kaku that rising sea levels would spell trouble for infrastructure costs for port cities. By 2050 if all factors remain constant, increased salinization in the soil of coastal cities will impact buried cables and pipes causing oxidation.

Also, as Peter D. Ward explained to Michio Kaku, fresh water aquifers could be contaminated by sea water. There will also be a need to increase the height of docks and ports. The cost of that would be a tremendous financial burden, according to the Michio Kaku video above.

Peter D. Ward told Michio Kaku that by 2100 sea levels will rise by three to six feet. Anything above five to six feet could swallow cities. Most in danger are the Netherlands, Venice, New Orleans, Miami, and the rest of South Florida. Peter Ward told Michio Kaku, he predicts that New Orleans will have to be abandoned in a century or two.

Peter D. Ward did explain, in answer to Michio Kaku’s interview questions, that there is an end to this. Even in a worst case scenario, water levels do have an upward limit.

“If we melt every single glacier on the planet we have a sea level rise of over 200 feet that was the case less than 17,000 years ago.”

Perhaps there is some small comfort in this statement. This has happened before, long ago.


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[Featured Image by Sam Aronov/Shutterstock]