Q&A: Dr. Boris Behncke answers your Italian volcano questions, Part 1
Part 1 of the Q&A from Dr. Boris Behncke of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Catania.
I write the Eruptions blog on Big Think. I've been mesmerized with volcanoes (and geology) all my life. It helps that part of my family comes from the shadow of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia, where I could see first hand the deadly effects of volcanic eruptions. Since then, I've taken a bit of a winding path to become a volcanologist. I started as a history major at Williams College, almost went into radio, but ended up migrating to geology, including an undergraduate thesis on Vinalhaven Island, Maine. I followed this up by changing coast to get my Ph.D. from Oregon State University. Then I ran a MC-ICP-MS lab at University of Washington for a spell (and wrote for an indie rock website). I spent three years as a postdoctoral scholar at University of California - Davis studying the inner workings of magmatic systems. I am now an assistant professor at Denison University and have projects in New Zealand, Chile and Oregon.
I am fascinated by volcanoes, their eruptions and how those eruptions interact with the people who live around the volcanoes. I started this blog after getting frustrated with the news reports of volcanic eruptions. Most of them get the information wrong and/or are just sensationalistic. I will try to summarize eruptions as they occur, translate some of the volcanic processes that are happening and comment on the reports themselves.
And no matter what people tell you, I definitely do not have a cat named Tephra. (OK, I do).
You can find out more about my research by visiting my website. If you have any comments, questions or information, feel free to contact me at eruptionsblog at gmail dot com.
First off, I want to thank Dr. Behncke for taking the time to answer your questions - and also, thank you to all who sent him some thought-provoking questions. In fact, the questions and answers take up about 12 pages of text, so the Q&A; will be divided into two parts.
If you want to see one of the previous in the Q&A; series, check out:
\nDr. Jonathan Castro.
Question and Answer with Dr. Boris Behncke of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Catania.\n\n
\nDr. Boris Behncke.
Questions for Dr. Boris Behncke\n\n
(Bernard Duyck) Qu'en est-il de l'évolution du mécanisme éruptif de l'Etna d'un volcanisme de point chaud vers celui de subduction ?"
\n(What's new over the evolution of Etna from a volcanism of a hot point to a volcanism of subduction?)
\nBB: This refers to a quite provocative publication (Schiano et al. 2001) of Etna changing from a hot-spot to a subduction type volcano and thus becoming more explosive There hasn't been any further research into this area to my knowledge - but certainly Etna has demonstrated that it has more explosive potential than was believed previously, both in the form of new eruptions - in particular, the very ash-rich 2002-2003 eruption - and in evidence coming from research on Etna's eruptive history. We thus know that explosive volcanism is quite common (Coltelli et al., 1998, 2000, 2005) during the past 100,000 years, which is pretty much the period during which Etna grew into the large mountain it is now (for an updated geological history of Etna, see Branca and Del Carlo, 2004). As it seems, the current consensus on why Etna is there is based on another 2001 publication (Doglioni et al. 2001), which places the volcano in a context of extensional tectonics between two different (oceanic and continental) lithospheric domains in the collision zone between the Eurasian and African plates. To the east, in the Ionian Sea, oceanic lithosphere making up the northern margin of the African plate is subducted beneath the southern margin of the Eurasian plate (the Calabrian Arc), the volcanoes of the Aeolian Islands being the result of the subduction-related melting processes. To the west, on the island of Sicily, the northern African margin is characterized by continental lithosphere colliding with continental Eurasian lithosphere, and the convergence process is slower than in the subduction setting to the east. So it can be said, the convergence occurs at two different speeds, and the two domains are separated by a major system of tectonic structures, which are also seismically active (producing, among others, the major earthquakes of 1693 in southeast Sicily and 1908 in the Messina strait area). Movement at these structures is believed to have an extensional (rifting) component that opens what Doglioni et al. (2001) call a "mantle window", and which is held responsible for significant decompression in the underlying mantle, generating magma - in fact, THE magma that feeds Etna. So to my knowledge that's the currently preferred hypothesis concerning the question why Etna is there, and so Etna would actually be a type of volcano unlike all others, which certainly fits with its extremely complicated and versatile dynamics.
\nBranca, S., Coltelli, M., Groppelli, G. (2004) Geological evolution of Etna volcano. In: Bonaccorso, A., Calvari, S., Coltelli, M., Del Negro, C., Falsaperla, S. (eds). Mt Etna Volcano Laboratory. AGU Geophysical Monograph Series, 143: 49-63.
\nColtelli, M., Del Carlo, P., Vezzoli, L. (1998) Discovery of a Plinian basaltic eruption of Roman age at Etna volcano, Italy. Geology, 26: 1095-1098.
\nColtelli, M., Del Carlo, P., Vezzoli, L. (2000) Stratigraphic constraints for explosive activity in the past 100 ka at Etna Volcano, Italy. International Journal of Earth Sciences, 89: 665-677.
\nColtelli, M., Del Carlo, P., Pompilio, M., Vezzoli, L. (2005) Explosive eruption of a picrite: the 3930 BP subplinian eruption of Etna volcano (Italy), Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L23307, doi:10.1019/2005GL024271R.
\nDoglioni C., Innocenti F. & Mariotti S. (2001): Why Mt. Etna? Terra Nova, 13: 25-31.
\nSchiano, P., Clocchiatti, R., Ottolini, L., Busà, T. (2001) Transition of Mount Etna lavas from a mantle-plume to an island-arc magmatic source. Nature, 412: 900-904.
(Mike Don) 1. I saw a recent news item that there seems to be magma present under the entire area covering the Bay of Naples and its environs. Is this verified, and does that mean that the three 'historic' volcanoes (Vesuvius, Campi Flegrei and Ischia) are now thought of as semi-independent centers in a single volcanic system?
\n2. As a corollary, is the historic fact that Ischia and Campi Flegrei have apparently tended to erupt during long repose periods at Vesuvius (eg Arso and Monte Nuovo) anything more than coincidence?
\n3. What is the accepted explanation for Vesuvius odd (silica-poor, leucite-bearing) magma? Has interaction between (already alkalic) magma and the limestone/dolomite country rocks underlying the region got anything to do with it? Are Vesuvius' eruptions associated with unusually large volumes of CO2?
\nBB: Answer to (1) and (2): The question of how much the different Italian volcanic areas are linked to each other is a popular and intriguing one. In the case of the Neapolitan volcanoes, it seems that in many senses they are independent, each having its own peculiar repertoire of chemical compositions, eruptive behavior, and type of edifice. But it is true, when one looks at the historical record, it may appear that Campi Flegrei is more active when Vesuvius is in repose, and the unrest at the earlier in recent decades falls into the current, quite long, repose period at the latter. Similarly, the latest eruptive events in the Campi Flegrei - a hydrothermal explosion at La Solfatara in 1198 and the small Monte Nuovo eruption in 1538 - coincided with the ~500 years-long repose period of Vesuvius prior to its catastrophic 1631 eruption. However, the historical record is too short to be certain that this happens as a rule, and at other times the different volcanoes appear to have erupted contemporaneously. So I fear much further research - and time - will be required to better understand how much or little connection there is between these volcanoes.
\nIt should be noted, however, that the clustering of seismic and volcanic events in relatively small areas are now beginning to receive more attention - such as the sequence of earthquakes and eruptions in Sicily in the fall of 2002, which started with an earthquake in Palermo on 6 September, and was followed by the large Etna eruption on 27 October, a submarine hydrothermal explosion near Panarea in the Aeolian Islands on 5 November, and finally by a major eruption at Stromboli on 28 December. A recent publication (Walter et al., 2009) suggests that these events are indeed linked: the Palermo earthquake induced significant stress changes that affected the three volcanic systems, which were already in a "critical state" and would possibly have produced increased activity anyway but maybe at a later time.
\nAnswer to (3): Vesuvius is maybe the archetype of a volcano whose magmas supposedly show significant interaction with host rocks - a concept proposed already early in the 20th century (Rittmann, 1933). This concept has been more or less rejected by some scientists (Savelli, 1967-1968) and essentially accepted by others (Marziano et al., 2008). I think a pretty good overview is presented by Peccerillo (2005), who seems to broadly accept the assimilation-of-crustal-rocks hypothesis.
\nI don't know how much the CO2 emissions of Vesuvius are known - I guess one difficulty lies in the fact that the volcano last erupted long before methods for the measurement of such emissions were developed. The only CO2 related study about Vesuvius I have come across is concerned with soil CO2 emission rather than with eruptive CO2 emission.
\nMarziano, G.I., Gaillard, F., Pichavant, M. (2008) Limestone assimilation by basaltic magmas: an experimental re-assessment and application to Italian volcanoes. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 155: 719-738.
\nPeccerillo, A. (2005) Plio-Quaternary Volcanism in Italy: Petrology, Geochemistry, Geodynamics. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York (Chapter 6: The Campania Province, Pontine Islands and Mount Vulture, pp. 129-171.
\nRittmann, A. (1933) Die geologisch bedingte Evolution und Differentiation des Somma-Vesuvmagmas. Zeitschrift für Vulkanologie, 15: 8-94.
\nSavelli, W. (1967-1968) The problem of rock assimilation by Somma-Vesuvius magma. Part I: Composition of Somma and Vesuvius lavas. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 16: 328-353; Part II: Composition of sedimentary rocks and carbonate ejecta from the Vesuvius Area. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 18: 43-64.
\nWalter, T.R., Wang, R., Acocella, V., Neri, M., Grosser, H., Zschau, J. (2009) Simultaneous magma and gas eruptions at three volcanoes in southern Italy: An earthquake trigger? Geology, 37: 251-254.
(Aldo Piombino) Last year I wrote a post on my blog about Mount Marsili, the giant volcano deep in the Thyrrenian sea. (http://aldopiombino.blogspot.com/2008/04/il-monte-marsili-un-gigantesco-vulcano.html). Why this volcano is so poorly known and what do you think about his history? Why this volcano is completely ignored by the INGV?
\nBB: Well, it is not exactly true that Marsili is ignored by the INGV, although I agree that it has so far received relatively little attention. There are three main publications discussing different aspects of this volcano, one on its volcanic and petrological evolution by Trua et al. (2002), one on its presumed hydrothermal activity (Uchupi and Ballard, 1989), and - most recently - a report on seismic studies carried out by the INGV in 2006 (D'Alessandro et al., 2009). From this it appears that the volcano is active, if not erupting. However, the INGV's main mission is to deal with volcanic hazards and volcano surveillance for the sake of Civil Defence, which grants much of the funding for the institute, and Marsili is not to be considered among the really, really hazardous volcanoes in Italy, considering that we've got to deal with pretty monstrous examples such as Vesuvius, Campi Flegrei, Vulcano, and possibly even the Colli Albani. This is why Marsili is not given much priority, although I believe all of us find it a pretty intriguing object of study.
\nD'Alessandro, A., D'Anna, G., Luzio, D., Mangano, G. (2009) The INGV's new OBS/H: Analysis of the signals recorded at the Marsili submarine volcano. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 183: 17-29.
\nTrua, T., Serri, G., Marani, M., Renzulli, A., Gamberi, F. (2002) Volcanological and petrological evolution of Marsili Seamount (southern Tyrrhenian Sea). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 114: 441-464.
\nUchupi, E., Ballard, R.D. (1989) Evidence of hydrothermal activity on Marsili Seamount, Tyrrhenian Basin. Deep Sea Research Part A. Oceanographic Research Papers, 36: 1443-1448.
(Damon Hynes) 1. Question about one difference in the locations of eruptions from Etna and Piton de la Fournaise: Both volcanoes erupt basic lavas, and both have had sector collapses. However, Fournaise's historic eruptions have been limited to a sector roughly bounded by the two remparts to the north and south. But eruptions have occurred on every radii from Etna's summit, and there have been eccentric eruptions on Etna that Fournaise hasn't experienced. Looking at the question the other way, Valle Del Bove doesn't seem to exert the same control over eruptive locations that the two Fournaise remparts do. In Hawai'i, when the rift zones get pinched off as the volcanic pile gets 'squeezed' by the next volcanoes in the chain, the eruptions move to either summit, subterminal or circumferential locations (recent example is Mauna Kea). Etna, erupting through the similar mass of Sicily, still has radial eruptions and the odd eccentric one. Reunion, with a smaller mass, would in my opinion, lead to a similar 'scatter' of eruption sites. Are the eruption-site locations just a function of Fournaise's smaller size compared to Etna, or there there other geologic controls / stress fields on Etna that aren't evident from observations of topography?
\n2. It seems to me that Vesuvius has entered a quiet state similar to the period between ~1139 to 1631. If there had been eruptions in the interim, it appears that by the descriptions they were small and probably phreatic. Predicting phreatic eruptions using methods useful for magmatic eruptions has an uneven track record, and precursors for a magmatic eruption on the scale of 1631 just aren't there, in my view. Since 1944, Vesuvius has given the impression of a rapidly cooled, quickly compacted pile of rock that has reached equilibrium except for the odd fumerole.
\nI'm not intending that geological research and volcano monitoring can turn its back on Vesuvius until the year 2400 (!) but it would seem to me that the historical record of precursors leading up to the 79 eruption (roughly 10-15 years of earthquakes) would allow plenty of time to revisit evacuation and refugee plans rather then the sort of "Decade Volcano" labelling that Vesuvius has received.
\nBB: Answer to (1): Yes, Etna seems to have more of those "eccentric" eruptions than other, broadly similar volcanoes (from their structural framework) such as Piton de la Fournaise and the Hawaiian volcanoes. This may be due to the fact that Etna, unlike those other volcanoes, sits on continental lithosphere, which always renders things a bit more complicated. Secondly, it is fed by what is believed to be a quite extensive magma source (below the base of the lithosphere), and magma sometimes rather than rising through the central conduit seems to follow tectonic lines of weakness and pops up somewhere on the sides of the volcano, or even at its base, in what we call "eccentric" eruptions. But let's face it, by far the majority of Etna's recent eruptions have followed very much the same pattern as those of Piton de la Fournaise, in that they are concentrated along the two main trends (northeast and south-southeast). And then note that Fournaise has occasionally produced eruptions not only outside the caldera (1977, 1986, 1998), but also on a third trend that goes westward from the summit, and a number of young pyroclastic cones lie on the slopes outside the caldera to the north and south. So the historical record can be very misleading about the potential of a volcano to erupt in areas that have not shown activity since human observations are available. In any case, the structural setting of any of these volcanoes and the control of adjacent volcanic edifices seems to be a very important factor in determining the distribution of flank vents.
\nAnswer to (2): Uhh, here we're touching very sensitive territory, though this is one of the most intriguing and challenging issues in modern volcanology.
\nVesuvius might well be in a repose period that could turn out to last for centuries, this is something it has done repeatedly in its lifetime, the about 800 years of quiescence preceding the AD 79 Pompei and the 500 years of calm before 1631 being the most recent examples. That means, people currently living at Vesuvius, volcanologists working on it, and authorities and Civil Defence staff responsible for emergency planning will likely not see Vesuvius erupt. This is a good thing on one side, but obviously, if there will be no eruption for generations to come, how will people living in the area feel in, like 200 years? There will have been centuries of talking about the risk of Vesuvius's next eruption, and none will have occurred. Maybe people will have gotten a grip on these things in the meantime and simply be ready (or try to be) once the volcano starts stirring back to life.
\nBut today's reality shows that there are really two challenges to face. One is the volcano and its behavior. The current emergency plan for the Vesuvius area is based on the assumption that clear warning signs of an imminent eruption will be plainly available at least two weeks before the start of the eruption. If we look at the known history of Vesuvius, it seems plausible that there will be warning signs, maybe weeks before an eruption. So the area is evacuated (which in itself is a challenge for imagination alone) successfully, can we be certain that the volcano will erupt on schedule? What if it behaves like Redoubt in Alaska at the beginning of this year? Remember Redoubt seemed to be set for eruption in late January, when it essentially gave the same signs it provided about 24 hours before its previous eruption in 1989. But this time it did not erupt 24 hours but two months later. In Alaska that was not too much of a problem, no one had to be evacuated. But if you evacuate more than half a million people from an economically and culturally significant area in Italy, I doubt you can keep them away from their homes and their work and their everyday life for two months without going into a serious economic and political crisis. And here's the second challenge, it's the people, many of whom might actually be reluctant to leave (as were quite a few in Chaitén, Chile, even when the volcano in their backyard was producing pyroclastic flows to within a couple of kilometers of their town, itself partly devastated by mudflows). And then, finally, it's back to the volcano - can we really be sure that Vesuvius will ALWAYS give clear warning signs early enough to allow (or justify) the evacuation of half a million people? Chaitén (again) teaches that silicic magma can rise to the surface surprisingly fast. I would not really like to see something like this happen at Vesuvius, or at Vulcano, or Lipari, which by the way is rhyolitic like Chaitén.
\nSo I fear volcanology and related sciences have still a long, long way to go - if ever it will be possible to produce watertight eruption forecasts or predictions and carry out evacuations smoothly without causing too much distress. And, as far as the current emergency plan for Vesuvius is concerned, there's an interesting article that is in the press on JVGR:
\nRolandi, G. (2009) Volcanic hazard at Vesuvius: An analysis for the revision of the current emergency plan. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2009.08.007
(Robert Fowler) If the top of the volcano is removed, would there be an opportunity to generate power from lower heat sources? (N.B. from EK: I think he was trying to imply that by removing the tops of volcanoes, we reduce the pressure, thus "stopping" eruptions. The next step would be to look at how to exploit the "stopped" volcanoes.)
\nBB: I fear that with the current knowledge of volcanic systems and the presently available technology I'd rather refrain from trying to do something like this, at least if you were intending active volcanoes. By the way, reducing pressure from a volcano would rather facilitate eruptions - decompression causes expansion of gas in magma and makes it rise and foam (or explode). I think there's no way to stop a volcano from erupting, because it's something way too big and powerful.
\nBut if we rather talk about dormant or extinct volcanic systems, I'd rather be concerned about the environmental impact of cutting off a part of a volcano - they are important and often beautiful landmarks that merit protection. In the Eifel volcanic field in Germany, not far from where I grew up, a number of Quaternary scoria cones have been nearly entirely removed due to quarrying of the volcanic material, and while such activity has provided precious insights into the inner structure of such volcanic features (such as the discovery of very frequent phreatomagmatic phases during basaltic, scoria-cone building eruptions), it has also destroyed some of the natural landscape.
\nBut then there are quite a lot of volcanic systems where hot rock is not far below the surface, such as in Iceland and New Zealand, to name just two, and where geothermal energy is generated. I don't know whether it would be worth the effort of removing (and destroying) large volcanic edifices - which still would be some sort of scratching the surface - in order to get closer to their presumably hot cores. I think where there's hot rock relatively close to the surface, localized drilling can do the job equally.
Part 2 will arrive later this week!
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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