28 Apr, 2021 09:45 am

Climate change: A small green rock's warning about our future

Climate change: A small green rock's warning about our future
A cobble from under the sea tells a story of how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could disappear.

Map illustrates Antarctica's rock underbelly Warning from 'Antarctica's last forests' Climate change: Drilling in 'Iceberg Alley' Phil Christie/IODP/Exp379 p image captionIcebergs carry material scraped from the bedrock of Antarctica The conundrum is that the Ellsworths - the tallest range in Antarctica - are in the far-interior of the continent and it's highly unlikely a rock like this could survive being ferried so far under an ice sheet to get to the coast to be despatched in an iceberg.And, furthermore, it probably would not hold up well to a great deal of interaction between the ice sheet and the bedrock.Those mid-Pliocene sea-levels imply the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, or at least significant parts of it, had melted away - and that in its place was a large open seaway."Our findings do confirm that the ice sheet can disappear fairly rapidly and also that it can re-establish itself fairly readily," explained Prof Siddoway.

"We read from very detailed records - that we're striving to make even more detailed - that the ice sheet has collapsed back in a considerable extent, specifically in the middle Pliocene." Viv Cummings/IODP/Exp379 p image captionProf Siddoway: "We read from very detailed records" No-one expects the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse anytime soon, but the little sandstone cobble is a warning, scientists believe, of the conditions we could eventually re-create if we don't soon get on top of the climate crisis.

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