According to a new study, published in Science Advances, by pumping ocean water to the coastal regions surrounding the Antarctic ice sheet and turning it into snow, it is possible to prevent the ice sheet from sliding into the ocean and it melts. The authors warn that, although the findings offer a potentially viable and less dangerous solution compared to other proposed methods, the implementation of this solution would be incredibly expensive, presents enormous technical challenges and can damage sensitive marine ecosystems.
The simulations show that the ice sheet is already melting and could make the sea level rise to more than 3 meters, putting at risk the most populous coastal cities such as New York, Calcutta, Shanghai and Tokyo.
A team led by Johannes Feldmann analyzed how the transfer of ocean water to the coastal regions around Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in western Antarctica would affect the so-called stress balance of glacier ice, inland ice and ice currents. Using a simulation, Feldmann’s team artificially improved the snowfall in these regions and discovered that the resulting increase effectively stabilized the platform.
But the simulations also show that a minimum of 7,400 gigatons (a little more than 0.001% of the planet’s weight) of artificial snow applied for 10 years would be needed to stabilize the ice sheet. It is important to note that the simulations do not include projected atmospheric and oceanic warming due to climate change, the possible increase in snowfall in the coming decades or the fracture in the ice sheet caused by future atmospheric warming.