Antarctic ice shelves melting dramatically

The Guardian reports, 26th March 2015: “The ice around the edge of Antarctica is melting faster than previously thought, potentially unlocking metres of sea-level rise in the long-term, researchers have warned.

“A team of US scientists looked at 18 years’ worth of satellite data and found the floating ice shelves that skirt the continent are losing 310km3 of ice every year. One shelf lost 18% of its thickness during the period.

“The loss of ice shelves does not contribute much directly to sea level rise. But they act like a cork in a bottle at the point where glaciers meet the sea — jamming the flow of ice from the massive ice sheets of east and west Antarctica.

Satellite view of a large iceberg separating from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier

Satellite view of a large iceberg separating from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, where ice loss has doubled in speed over the last 20 years.
Photograph: MODIS/Aqua/NASA

“Professor Andrew Shepherd, director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds, said the rates of ice loss were unsustainable and could cause a major collapse. This is already occurring at the massive Pine Island glacier, where ice loss has doubled in speed over the last 20 years as its blocking ice shelf has melted.

“This is a real concern, because such high rates of thinning cannot be sustained for much longer, and because in the places where Antarctic ice shelves have already collapsed this has triggered rapid increases in the rate of ice loss from glaciers above ground, causing global sea levels to rise,” he said.

The new research, published in the journal Science, discovered for the first time that ice shelf melt is accelerating.

Source: The Guardian 26th March 2015. For the full text, see www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/26/collapse-antarcticas-glaciers-ice-melt-sooner-than-thought-scientists-warn


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