The ever rising CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are causing unstoppable effects, that will affect the climate at least until the year 3000, a new research published yesterday in the Advanced Online Publication of the journal Nature Geoscience, concluded.
This new paper examines the inertia of carbon dioxide emissions, and it is the first full climate model simulation to make predictions out to 1000 years from now.
Researchers estimate that the West Antarctic ice sheet will collapse by the year 3000, and the sea level could rise at least four meters by then.
Hard to believe but this is actually the best case scenario – with zero emissions, and it was built by a team of researchers from the Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis (an Environment Canada research lab at the University of Victoria) and the University of Calgary.
The scientists explored several zero-emissions scenarios beginning in 2010 and in 2100, and computer simulations showed that the Northern Hemisphere will do better than the south, since in Canada, for example, the climate change should reverse after the 1000-year time frame.
During the same lapse of time, several parts of North Africa should experience desertification, with land drying out by up to 30%, and ocean warming of up to 5°C off of Antarctica, which will trigger widespread collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.
Dr. Shawn Marshall, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and University of Calgary geography professor said that “we created ‘what if’ scenarios – what if we completely stopped using fossil fuels and put no more CO2 in the atmosphere?
“How long would it then take to reverse current climate change trends and will things first become worse?”
But why do computer models show this difference between the North and the South?
The researchers believe that one reason for this is the slow movement of ocean water from the North Atlantic into the South Atlantic.
“The global ocean and parts of the Southern Hemisphere have much more inertia, such that change occurs more slowly,” explains Marshall.
“The inertia in intermediate and deep ocean currents driving into the Southern Atlantic means those oceans are only now beginning to warm as a result of CO2 emissions from the last century.
“The simulation showed that warming will continue rather than stop or reverse on the 1000-year time scale.”
Also, wind currents in the Southern Hemisphere could have an impact, since they tend to strengthen and remain strong without reversing, Marshall said.
“This increases the mixing in the ocean, bringing more heat from the atmosphere down and warming the ocean,” he added.
Researchers will continue their investigation on the impact of atmosphere temperature on ocean temperature, and try to determine the rate at which West Antarctica could destabilize and how long it could take before it fully collapses into the water.
*Smaranda Biliuti is Science Editor at Softpedia – a website that covers a wide range of issues including the environment.