Prof Mike Bentley from the Department of Geography at Durham University will be travelling to the Antarctic as part of a team of British scientists to better understand why the Pine Island Glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been losing ice rapidly and whether this loss will continue to increase or slow down.
The research is important for understanding the likely impact on future sea level rise. His mission comes as a major new international report released yesterday shows that human activity is driving climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned that warming of the planet is “unequivocal” and that it is 95% certain that humans are responsible for the majority of the warming since the 1950s.
Each of the past three decades have been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.
In the northern hemisphere, it is likely 1983-2012 were the hottest 30 years in the past 1,400 years.
In the last two decades Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been melting, glaciers have shrunk almost worldwide and Arctic sea ice and northern hemisphere spring snow cover has decreased.
Sea levels have risen by 19cm on average since 1901, with the rate of increase higher than in the previous two millennia.
Carbon dioxide is 40% above pre-industrial levels, mainly due to burning fossil fuels and changes to land such as deforestation.
Prof Bentley said: “The Pine Island Glacier is currently the single biggest contributor to sea level rise from the Antarctic Ice Sheet.”
Today, Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative Technology will speak on the body’s recent Zero Carbon Britain report at a Friends of the Earth even at the Linskill Centre in North Shields titled “Living Well, Within our Means.”