Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Antarctica Lost a London-Sized Area of Underwater Ice in Only 6 Years

Climate
Antarctica Lost a London-Sized Area of Underwater Ice in Only 6 Years
Wikimedia Commons

Antarctica's ice sheet is retreating due to warm ocean water circulating beneath its floating edge, researchers from the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds have found.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that the Southern Ocean melted 1,463 square kilometers of Antarctica's underwater ice between 2010 and 2016—an area roughly the size of Greater London.


"What's happening is that Antarctica is being melted away at its base. We can't see it, because it's happening below the sea surface," professor Andrew Shepherd, one of the authors of the paper, explained to The Guardian.

The team also produced the first complete map showing that the ice sheet's submarine edge, or "grounding line," is shifting.

Map showing rates of grounding line migration and their coincidence with ocean conditions around Antarctica between 2010 and 2016Konrad et al.

Lead researcher Dr. Hannes Konrad and his team found "extreme" grounding line retreat at eight of the ice sheet's 65 biggest glaciers. The pace of deglaciation since the last ice age is roughly 25 meters per year. However, the grounding line at these glaciers has been retreating more than five times that rate, the authors determined.

According to the paper, "Although most of the grounding line is stable, we estimate that 3.3 percent, 21.7 percent and 9.5 percent of East Antarctica, West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, respectively, are measurably in a state of retreat."

This study could spell major implications for global sea level rise.

"The changes mean that very soon the sea-level contribution from Antarctica could outstrip that from Greenland," Shepherd added to The Guardian.

Konrad noted in a statement, "Our study provides clear evidence that retreat is happening across the ice sheet due to ocean melting at its base, and not just at the few spots that have been mapped before now. This retreat has had a huge impact on inland glaciers, because releasing them from the sea bed removes friction, causing them to speed up and contribute to global sea level rise."

Although the retreat of some glaciers has sped up, others such as the Pine Island Glacier have halted, the researchers found.

"These differences emphasize the complex nature of ice sheet instability across the continent, and being able to detect them helps us to pinpoint areas that deserve further investigation," Konrad said.

Milkyway from Segara Anak - Rinjani Mountain. Abdul Azis / Moment / Getty Images

By Dirk Lorenzen

2021 begins as a year of Mars. Although our red planetary neighbor isn't as prominent as it was last autumn, it is still noticeable with its characteristic reddish color in the evening sky until the end of April. In early March, Mars shines close to the star cluster Pleiades in the constellation Taurus.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.

Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.

The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Marsh Creek in north-central California is the site of restoration project that will increase residents' access to their river. Amy Merrill

By Katy Neusteter

The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less
A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less