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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-95
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 16 May 2018

Research article | 16 May 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Stopping the Flood: Could We Use Targeted Geoengineering to Mitigate Sea Level Rise?

Michael J. Wolovick1 and John C. Moore2,3 Michael J. Wolovick and John C. Moore
  • 1Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences Program, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, GFDL, 201 Forrestal Road, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
  • 2College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
  • 3Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland

Abstract. 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 the largest individual source of future sea level rise and may have already entered the MISI. Here, we use a suite of coupled ice–ocean flowband simulations to explore whether targeted geoengineering using an artificial sill or artificial ice rises could counter a collapse. Successful interventions occur when the floating ice shelf regrounds on the pinning points, 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 has only 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 was 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.

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Michael J. Wolovick and John C. Moore
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Latest update: 19 Aug 2018
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Short summary
In this paper, we explore the possibility of using locally targeted geoengineering to slow the rate of an ice sheet collapse. We find that an intervention as big as existing large civil engineering projects could have a 30 % probability of stopping an ice sheet collapse, while larger interventions have better odds of success. With more research to improve upon the simple designs we considered, it may be possible to perfect a design that was both achievable and had a good odds of success.
In this paper, we explore the possibility of using locally targeted geoengineering to slow the...
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