Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Antarctic Ice Synchronicity

So I'm getting close to the end of Green Mars, when the revolutionaries are waiting for a trigger - the best time to try and take down the multinational corporations that control both Earth and Mars. Spoiler alert: the trigger comes when a volcano erupts underneath the glaciers of West Antarctica. In the book, the melting of this ice is projected to occur relatively rapidly, throwing an already chaotic Terran society into chaos. But guess what? Other than the volcano, this ain't just fiction:
Scientists studying huge glaciers in Antarctica have found that they are already in the early stages of a huge retreat, and—although the entire event may take more than 200 years—this melting may also be unstoppable. By the time this plays out, it could cause a sea level rise of more than a meter, which would be very bad indeed.
For us Americans, one meter is ~3.3 feet, a big problem considering how much of humanity is crammed into our coastlines. (The CPO sez that "More than 8 million people live in areas at risk of coastal flooding. ") One can see why KSR it as a tipping point. Scary stuff. Read Bad Astronomy's excellent synopsis for more information, including a slick video explaining what's going on.

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