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Will global warming and an Antarctic ice melt ruin my marriage?

A climate-change uncorking in East Antarctica (and 10-foot rise in oceans) makes hubby rethink beach move
Opinion: The Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica is like a guy with a cold beer on a hot day
Opinion: Even if global warming is halted, it may be too late in the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica

Ever notice how global problems and the it’s-a-small-world we actually live in sometimes collide? Take, for example, global warming — and my wife’s desire to live at the beach.

Like many men — and the planet, for that matter — there are competing forces at work in my life. First, my wife wants to leave our soon-to-be-empty nest in the safe (except for fires) foothills of Los Angeles and move to a sunny beach community in Southern California.

Which, other than the little hiccup that we can’t really afford anything in those areas, I am fine with. (Pay attention, young lovers: From such compromises spring marital bliss, or at least peaceful coexistence.)

Anyway, I was all set to start perusing the real estate listings — until this morning, when global warming reared its, uh, icy head. On Monday, I find this little tidbit: “ ‘Uncorking’ East Antarctica Could Mean 10 Foot Sea-Level Rise.”

Uh, oh. Honey, better hold off on that U-Haul.

Seems that scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research say that the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica is a kind of frozen water bottle. A rim of ice is now holding back a larger field of ice (don’t ask me how; I’m neither a rocket nor an ice scientist); should that rim of ice melt, the ice behind will start to melt too. And that would be bad.

Because, like a guy with a cold beer on a hot day, it won’t stop until it’s empty. Explained the lead author of the study, Matthias Mengel: “East Antarctica’s Wilkes Basin is like a bottle on a slant. Once uncorked, it empties out.”

Which brings us back to the 10 to 13 feet of sea-level rise. And my bride’s dream of a little cottage by the beach.

Do I tell her? Will she care? Worse, will she become a climate-change denier a la the Koch brothers, just so she can get what she wants? And if I go along, will that make me a fellow traveler in the “who cares if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, I’ve got mine” clique?

Fortunately, I may have time, or my lack of it, on my side.

According to Discovery News: “Computer simulations of the region show it would take 5,000-10,000 years for the basin to discharge completely.”

Meaning that — unless the other exciting discovery Monday about old mice being rejuvenated by blood from young mice becomes human reality in the next few years — I can probably go ahead and rent that beach shack.

But I’m not an eternal optimist. As Discovery News pointed out: “But once started, the basin would empty, even if global warming was halted.”

So, honey, better make that a one-year lease.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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