A new study suggests that the cliffs of ice in the Antarctic are melting five times faster than previously estimated. Scientists believe that the phenomenon is caused by Antarctica’s ocean waters getting alarmingly warmer.
The new research revealed that the snowy continent’ glaciers are melting five times faster than researchers had thought. The findings appeared this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Study authors warn of a “total collapse” of the Antarctic’s ice sheet, which is the largest ice sheet on the planet. In the worst-case scenario, the ocean could rise 10 feet by 2100.
Lead author Hannes Konrad explained that the glaciers are retreating so fast because the ocean has started melting at its base. Konrad works at the University of Leeds’ Center for Polar Observation and Modelling.
Researchers estimate that the melting would unlock the inland glaciers, which will remove the friction with the seabed. Once they land in the ocean, they can further fuel the global sea level rise.
Study authors based their findings on satellite imagery and ground measurements. They were able to create a detailed map of the ice melt in the continent’s coastlines. The team also relied on grounding lines aka physical lines that can tell the level of erosion of underwater ice by just looking at the distance between its current location and the ocean floor.
Researchers estimate a more significative ground line retreat over the next few decades. Such retreats, however, normally occur over hundreds of years following an ice age.
The current retreat speeds are far from being “normal” for the region. Normally, ground lines should lose up to 82 feet per year. However, in some parts in the Antarctic, the lines are losing up to 600 feet per year.
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