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WAIS Impact on India: Climate Link



  Mar 26, 2024

West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and India



West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and India The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is a large body of ice located in the western part of Antarctica. It’s one of the two major ice sheets in Antarctica, the other being the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The WAIS is particularly important because it’s currently losing mass, which means it’s melting and contributing to rising sea levels.

The melting of the WAIS is primarily due to its interaction with the Southern Ocean, especially in the Amundsen Sea region. The ocean water is getting warmer due to climate change, and this warm water is causing the ice shelves, which are the floating extensions of the ice sheet, to melt from the bottom. This process is known as basal melting. As the ice shelves melt, they become thinner and less able to support the ice sheet. This causes the glaciers that feed into the ice shelves to flow faster towards the ocean, which leads to more ice being lost from the ice sheet.

If the WAIS were to collapse completely, it could have a significant impact on global sea levels. The WAIS contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by about 5.3 meters. This would cause flooding in coastal areas around the world. In addition to flooding, a rise in sea levels could also lead to other problems such as coastal erosion, loss of habitat for coastal and marine species, and increased damage from coastal storms.

Currently, the WAIS is losing ice at a rate of about 159 gigatons per year. To put this in perspective, a gigaton is one billion metric tons, so this is a significant amount of ice. The ocean around the WAIS is warming up quickly, at about triple the historical rate. This rapid warming is expected to continue throughout the 21st century, which could lead to even more melting of the ice shelves and faster flow of the glaciers.

There is a lot of uncertainty about whether the collapse of the WAIS can be stopped. Once the retreat of the ice sheet starts, it tends to continue because it moves into areas where the ice is thicker, which could make it unstoppable. This is known as the marine ice sheet instability. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions now could help slow down the warming of the ocean and potentially slow down the melting of the WAIS, but it might not be enough to stop it completely.

Now, if the WAIS melts and sea levels rise, it could have a significant impact on India. India has a long coastline, and many people live in coastal areas that could be affected by rising sea levels. Here are some of the potential impacts:

Coastal Flooding: As sea levels rise, low-lying areas along the coast could experience more frequent and severe flooding, especially during high tides and storms. This could damage homes and other buildings, disrupt transportation, and affect people’s livelihoods.

Displacement of People: If coastal areas become uninhabitable due to flooding or erosion, people would need to move to higher ground. This could lead to large-scale displacement of people, creating a significant number of climate refugees within the country.

Loss of Coastal Ecosystems: Coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and coral reefs, provide important habitats for many species of plants and animals. They also provide benefits to people, such as protection from storms and nursery areas for fish. Rising sea levels could lead to the loss of these ecosystems.

Impact on Infrastructure: Infrastructure along the coast, including ports, roads, and industrial facilities, could be damaged by flooding and erosion. This could have economic impacts and disrupt supply chains.

Economic Impact: The economic cost of dealing with the impacts of sea level rise could be substantial. This includes the costs of repairing or replacing damaged infrastructure, relocating people and communities, and dealing with the impacts on agriculture and fisheries.

These are just some of the potential impacts of the collapse of the WAIS on India. The actual impacts would depend on a variety of factors, including how fast the ice melts, how much sea levels rise, how well communities are able to adapt, and what measures are taken to mitigate the impacts. It’s a complex issue that requires ongoing research and planning to address effectively.


SRIRAM'S


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