“February 2023 will be a moment in time of a gathering of great minds for commitments to resolve what it takes, to move from where we are now to get to a better future. This can be Your Legacy; you can help change the current course from a catastrophic outcome to a healthy, habitable planet. Please do this for the next generation, for the future of humanity.”
Dr. Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, marine biologist and explorer
Today we set off from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Antarctica for ACE (Antarctic Climate Expedition) 2023 with Dr. Sylvia Earle! I’m excited to be a part of this, working with Aurora Expeditions as a geology/glaciology/climate expert. The goal behind ACE is to bring about public and government awareness about the importance of the Antarctic and to address the warming climate and loss of ice in the southern polar region. Towards this end, expedition members will help formulate 23 resolutions to inspire transformative changes for global net-zero emissions by 2050.
There’s lots of talk about the melting in the Arctic – Greenland – and the drastic changes happening at the North Pole. But what about down south, in Antarctica? There’s one particular glacier that scientists are keeping a close eye on: the Thwaites Glacier. Every year, it loses 50 billion tons of ice, which contributes around 4% of annual global sea level rise. If the entire glacier melted, it would raise the sea level by 25 inches (64 cm). You can think of Thwaites like a dam, holding back the mass of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which has the square footage of not one, but two Alaskas. That’s a LOT of ice. If all of that was lost to the sea, the ocean would rise another 10 feet (3 meters). However, that wouldn’t happen all at once. The collapse of Thwaites would set in motion a long-term process which would eventually result in sea levels rising. The initial steps of collapse, glacier speed-up and increased ice-cliff failures at the edge of the ice sheet would happen within a couple of decades, but it could take centuries to see the full 10 feet/3 meter rise. The impacts can still be mitigated – but it depends on us, on how we respond in the coming decades when it comes to reduction of fossil fuel emissions.
photo: Ulyana Peña, with a Zoom lens, in 2020.