The enormous ice sheet, which many experts believe could collapse as the climate warms, is so heavy that as it melts it “will actually cause the Earth’s rotation axis to shift rather dramatically,” reports a team led by geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica, at the University of Toronto. The scientists say the North and South poles would move about half a kilometre if the entire ice sheet collapses and shifts more water north.
He and his colleagues stress that the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, while a big concern, is not imminent and may not occur for centuries. “But these findings do suggest that if you are planning for sea level rise, you had better plan a little higher,” says co-author Peter Clark at Oregon State University.
March 19th, 2009