August 31, 2022

White Zombie is a 1932 American horror film based on The Magic Island by William Seabrook, staring Bela Lugosi as the zombie master “Murder” Legendre, and Madge Bellamy as his victim.  White Zombie is considered the first feature length zombie movie and gave birth to cinematic voodoo.  Revolt of the Zombies was a loose sequel in 1936 that was periodically followed by six more zombie releases until 1959, including the comedy Zombies on Broadway in 1945.  The genre took off in the early 1960’s with seven films released in four years and then began in earnest in the 1970’s.  Zombie films seem to have morphed from low budget B movies into the apocalyptic or space movies and TV shows that proliferate today.  These “living dead” creatures are portrayed as cannibalistic, and often prefer to eat human brains.  You can imagine my surprise when the world section of my local paper headlined the “zombie ice” that is our latest apocalyptic threat to survival.

When I looked online, I found “zombie ice” refers to the Greenland ice sheet which will lose at least 3.3% of its total mass in the coming years.  The zombie ice is causing Greenland’s glaciers to melt faster than experts previously predicted and causing sea levels to rise.  A new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that over time that rise could be 10 inches (30 cm) or more.  The study co-author William Colgan, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), described zombie ice as dead ice that will melt and disappear from the ice sheet regardless of what climate (emissions) scenario we take.  Researchers say the zombie ice is an “ice budget deficit” that occurs when glaciers stop receiving enough snow to replenish the ice already melting each year.  In an ideal situation, yearly snowfall would easily be able to compensate for the ice that naturally melts on the edges of glaciers.  Emissions since the 1980’s have made that impossible.

While an ocean rise of 10 inches (30 cm) is inevitable, it could be up to 30 inches (90 cm) if preventative measures are not taken.  The absolute minimum ice loss means 120 trillion tons of water will melt off the Greenland ice sheet, or enough to cover the entire US in 37 feet (11.3 mm) of water.  According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, glaciers in northwestern Greenland have been losing about 4 to 8 billion tons of ice per year from accelerated warming.  That is more than the peripheral glaciers in southeastern and southwestern Greenland are losing, but less than in northern Greenland, where peripheral glaciers have been losing as much as 29 billion tons per year since the early 2000’s.  An important aspect of this new study is that it is based entirely on recorded measurements taken over the last 20 years combined with satellite measurements, not simulations or computer models.  The catch is the method lacks a specific timeframe.  Exactly when the 10 inches of sea level rise will happen is unknown, but observations suggest most of the committed sea level rise will occur this century.  The study also only considers the melting in Greenland and does not factor in other zombie ice melting in the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets.  That may not matter, as data from Greenland’s zombie ice suggests we already have one foot in the grave.

THOUGHTS:  While the predicted zombie ice melt would cover the entire US in 37 feet of water, it would not be distributed evenly due to altitude.  Conservative estimates say coastal cities around the world could witness more than 6 feet of flooding by the year 2100.   While some would be unaffected others might disappear underwater, including New Orleans, Miami, Huston, and parts of New York City.  That ocean front property in Arizona is looking better all the time.  We could follow the example of the dikes and pumps in the Netherlands or the flood barriers in Venice.  Or we could admit climate change is real and seek global solutions.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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