Hot Topic

March 19, 2009 at 2:18 pm 2 comments

A Penn Stater’s research article, just published in the prestigious journal Nature, has been getting a lot of media play. David Pollard of Penn State and U. Mass. climatologist Robert DeConto created a 5-million-year model of the comings and goings of the West Antarctic ice sheet. That huge mass of ice is one of the question marks in studies of global warming—since the ice sheet holds so much frozen water, sea levels are expected to rise substantially if it melts.

To create their model, Pollard and DeConto studied historic levels of the isotope oxygen-18 (tied to ocean temperatures) and then checked their results against sediment core samples that hold evidence about past ice levels in the West Antarctic. The model suggests that the ice sheet melted and refroze many times over the past 5 million years, with the changes happening over the course of a thousand years or more—which in geologic terms is pretty rapid. A rise in ocean temperatures of 5 degrees Celsius would be enough to melt the ice sheet again, the researchers predict.

Here’s the article in Nature, as well as an editor’s note that summarizes it. The New York Times, NPR, and live.psu.edu were among the media sources talking about the research.

Chas Brua, contributing editor

Entry filed under: Penn State in the News, The Penn Stater Magazine. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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