Gravitational Sea-Level Rise

I thought to start this blog with the first scientific post touching gently on the topic of my last essay, on the interactions of the oceans and the ice sheets. I looked more closely at the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, and what I found surprised me. Mostly because it was very compelling, but also due to the fact that I had previously not heard of one type of sea level change.

I’ll include the full references in the bottom of the post, but based on Clark and Lingle’s studies from the 70’s (a paper then largely ignored), Gomez and her research group calculated that the most immediate effect from the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet would be the migration of water away from the southern continent.

Now, when brought up without a reason why it happens so, the process seems a bit odd. However, the physical basis behind the claim seems solid enough : namely, the ice sheet, as a massive expanse of kilometers-thick ice, has created a gravitational field that attracts water. Upon melting, this gravitational attraction of the ice will disappear leading to water migrating away from the Antarctic continent.

The two studies also produced more specific results — namely, the immediate loss of water near the Antarctic would be around 500% smaller than the average sea level rise resulting from the meltwater. The areas that accumulate the most water (I believe the values were around 25% larger than the average sea level rise) due to this migration would be located in the southern Atlantic and central Indian oceans.

 

Clark, J.A., Lingle, C.S., Nature 269 “Future sea-level changes due to West Antarctic ice sheet fluctuations.” (1977).

Gomez, N., Mitrovica, J.X., Tamisiea, M.E., Clark, P.U., Geophys. J. Int. 180, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2009.04419.x (2010).

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