Icebergs Could Delay Effects Of Climate Change By 50 Years In Southern Hemisphere

Sep 3, 2019

According to new research from the University of Hawaii and Institute for Basic Science, icebergs could weaken and delay the effects of climate change for the Southern Hemisphere by up to 50 years.

Current climate change projections don't take into account the role of icebergs in sea level rise and global warming. Researchers with UH and IBS set out to find that out.

In order to quantify the impact of icebergs on climate change, researchers ran multiple global warming simulations to include the freshwater and cooling effects of icebergs on the ocean. Researchers also factored in the size and number of icebergs released in the model to mimic the retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Researchers compared the difference between the two models, and found the role icebergs could play in delaying the effects of human-induced warming in the Southern Hemisphere.

"It's like ice in a glass of water," says Fabian Schloesser, lead author of the study. "We found that in cities like Buenos Aires or Cape Town, greenhouse warming could be delayed by up to 50 years. But we also [see] a strong impact in Southern Australia, like Melbourne."

Schloesser says Hawaii (and the Northern Hemisphere) will not most likely not feel the benefits of their findings, because of the lack of interaction between ice shelves and the ocean.

The research findings will help improve climate change projections moving forward.

"Our study highlights the importance of considering realistic climate ice sheet interactions to further improve climate change models," said Schloesser.

Schloesser says the research team plans to further quantify the interaction between ice and climate, and its effect on global sea level with a new computer model.

Scientists expect an intensification of iceberg discharge in the future, as the Antarctic ice sheet continues to shrink. Icebergs can persist for years and are carried by winds and currents through the Southern Ocean until they ultimately melt.