Projects per year
The Marine Ice Sheet Instability (MISI) is a dynamic feedback that can cause an ice sheet to enter a runaway collapse. Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, is projected to be the largest individual source of future sea level rise and may have already entered MISI. Here, we use a suite of coupled quasi-2-D ice–ocean simulations to explore whether targeted geoengineering using either a continuous artificial sill or isolated artificial pinning points could counter a collapse. Successful interventions occur when the floating ice shelf regrounds on the structure, increasing buttressing and reducing ice flux across the grounding line. Regrounding is more likely with a continuous sill that is able to block warm water transport to the grounding line. The smallest design we consider is comparable in scale to existing civil engineering projects but only has a 30% success rate, while larger designs are more effective. There are multiple possible routes forward to improve upon the designs that we considered, and with decades or more to research designs it is plausible that the scientific community could come up with a plan that is both effective and achievable. While reducing emissions remains the short-term priority for minimizing the effects of climate change, in the long run humanity may need to develop contingency plans to deal with an ice sheet collapse.
Field of science