Ocean waves in Antarctica can trigger ice shelf collapse
Ocean waves in Antarctica can trigger ice shelf collapse
Antarctica holds enough frozen water to raise the global sea level by 58 metres
16 June, 2018, 11:03
The latest figures show East Antarctica is losing relatively little ice a year - about 31 tons - since 2012.
The new findings are the result of the most complete satellite survey of Antarcticice sheet change to date, involving 84 scientists from 44 worldwide organizations (including NASA and the European Space Agency). This has led to an increase in sea levels of roughly three-tenths of an inch, which doesn't seem like much.
The annual sea level rise that's attributed to Antarctica has tripled, from 0.2mm to 0.6mm, or from less than a tenth of an inch to almost a quarter of an inch, he says. The researchers also discovered that whilst the entire region of sea ice encompassing Antarctica has been portrayed scanty comprehensive adjustment since the emergence of satellite observations, mid-20th century ship-based observations propose a lifelong fall.
On current trends, Antarctica could become the single largest source of sea level rise, ahead of runoff from the Greenland ice sheet and mountain glaciers, and the expansion of ocean water as it warms, the study found.
"To see a threefold increase just since 2012 - that's disturbing to me", said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
At the northern tip of the continent, ice-shelf collapse at the Antarctic Peninsula has driven an increase of 27.6 billion tons (25 billion metric tons) in ice loss per year since the early 2000s.
The continent is now melting so fast, scientists say, that it will contribute 6 inches (15 centimetres) to sea-level rise by 2100.
"But where there is loss of sea ice, storm-generated ocean swells can easily reach the exposed ice shelf, causing the first few kilometres of its outer margin to flex". Scientists can also detect markers of where ice sheets once covered Antarctica by looking at the seabed around the western part of the continent, which holds traces of where glaciers were pinned in the past, Shepherd explained.
"The next piece of the puzzle is to understand the processes driving this change", Durham University's Pippa Whitehouse said.
Shepherd told Newsweek that there is a combination of factors that have led to the increased rate of ice loss in recent years, all of which are indicators of climate change.
In 2015, a NASA study warned that Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf was likely to shatter into hundreds of icebergs before the end of the decade.
West Antarctica experienced the largest change, with ice losses growing from 53 billion tons per year in the 1990s to 159 billion tons annually since 2012.
Professor Martin Siegert, from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, said: "Some of the changes Antarctica will face are already irreversible, such as the loss of some ice shelves, but there is a lot we can prevent or reverse". The research involved more than 80 scientists from 44 global organizations and used data taken from multiple satellites, as well as air and ground measurements and computer simulations.
Scientists have long known that the effects of global warming are amplified in Antarctica, causing changes that can be felt around the world.
Last year, a project carried out by British-based researchers revealed 91 volcanoes beneath the surface in the west of Antarctica, meaning there are now at least 138 underwater craters in the region.
There have been many other estimates of how much ice has melted in Antarctica. "They show no indication of being exposed to cosmic rays", said Marc Caffee, a co-author of the paper and professor of physics and atronomy at Purdue University. Thanks to the satellites that our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea-level contribution with confidence. The bedrock under the landbound ice slopes downward, which is in turn allowing those warm waters to march ever further inland.
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