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Artificial Snow to Save Antarctica

Artificial Snow to Save Antarctica

Saturday, 20 July, 2019 - 05:30
An Adélie penguin stands atop a block of melting ice near the French station at Dumont d’Urville in East Antarctica. Photo: Reuters
London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Governments could stop the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from sliding into the ocean and submerging coastal cities by launching a last-ditch engineering project to blanket its surface with "artificial snow."

Scientists believe that global warming has already caused so much melting at the South Pole that the giant ice sheet is now on course to disintegrate, which would trigger an eventual global sea level rise of at least three meters over centuries, Reuters reported.

The authors of the new study envisaged using 12,000 wind turbines to pump seawater 1,500 meters up to the surface, where it would be frozen into "snow" to try to weigh the sheet down enough to stop it collapsing any further.

Anders Levermann, a professor at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and co-author of the study published in the Science Advances journal, told Reuters: "We have already awoken the giant at the southern pole. We are already at a point of no return if we don't do anything. We can bring it back to the stable point by a small interference now or by larger and larger interference later."

With the droughts, floods, storms and wildfires associated with climate change intensifying globally, some scientists have begun to seriously contemplate interventions that would have been dismissed as wildly impractical even a few years ago.

Echoing many other climate scientists, Levermann said the most urgent priority was to deliver the rapid cuts in carbon emissions needed to meet the temperature goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Although Levermann said full sea level rise projected to follow the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might not unfold for hundreds of years, he said he published the paper out of concern for the fate of low-lying populations. "The sea level rise from Western Antarctica will eventually submerge Hamburg, Shanghai, New York and Hong Kong," he added.

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