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Antarctic Ice Shelves Rapidly Thinning, Study Reveals 18 Percent Decrease in Thickness
Science & Technology

Antarctic Ice Shelves Rapidly Thinning, Study Reveals 18 Percent Decrease in Thickness

Schematic diagram of an Antarctic ice shelf exhibiting the processes inflicting the quantity adjustments measured by satellites. Ice is added to the ice shelf by glaciers flowing off the continent and by snowfall that compresses to kind ice. Ice is misplaced when icebergs break off the ice entrance, and by melting in some areas as heat water flows into the ocean cavity beneath the ice shelf. Beneath some ice cabinets, chilly and contemporary meltwater rises to some extent the place it refreezes onto the ice shelf.

New analysis reveals that the Antarctic ice cabinets are quickly thinning, revealing an eighteen % lower in thickness over the course of roughly 20 years.

A brand new examine led by Scripps Establishment of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica’s floating ice cabinets has not too long ago decreased by as a lot as 18 % in sure areas over practically twenty years, offering new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to local weather change.

Information from practically twenty years of satellite tv for pc missions have proven that the ice quantity decline is accelerating, in keeping with a study published on March 26, 2015, in the journal Science and supported by NASA. Scripps graduate scholar Fernando Paolo, Scripps glaciologist Helen Amanda Fricker, and oceanographer Laurie Padman of Earth & House Analysis (a non-profit institute specializing in oceanography analysis) constructed a brand new high-resolution report of ice shelf thickness based mostly on satellite tv for pc radar altimetry missions of the European House Company from 1994 to 2012.

Merging information from three overlapping missions, the researchers recognized adjustments in ice thickness that passed off over greater than a decade, an development over finding out information from single missions that solely present snapshots of tendencies.

Complete ice shelf quantity (imply thickness multiplied by ice shelf space) throughout Antarctica modified little or no from 1994 to 2003, then declined quickly, the examine reveals. West Antarctic ice cabinets misplaced ice all through all the remark interval, with accelerated loss in the newest decade. Earlier positive factors in East Antarctic ice shelf quantity ceased after about 2003, the examine confirmed. Some ice cabinets misplaced as much as 18 % of their quantity from 1994 to 2012.

Eighteen years of change in thickness and quantity of Antarctic ice cabinets. Charges of thickness change (m/decade) are color-coded from -25 (thinning) to +10 (thickening). Circles characterize proportion of thickness misplaced (purple) or gained (blue) in 18 years. The central circle demarcates the world not surveyed by the satellites (south of 81.5ºS). Background is the Landsat Picture Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA).

“Eighteen % over the course of 18 years is mostly a substantial change,” stated Paolo. “General, we present not solely the whole ice shelf quantity is lowering, however we see an acceleration in the final decade.”

Whereas melting ice cabinets don’t contribute on to sea-level rise, the researchers point out that there’s an vital oblique impact.

“The ice cabinets buttress the movement from grounded ice into the ocean, and that movement impacts sea-level rise, in order that’s a key concern from our new examine,” stated Fricker.

Beneath present charges of thinning, the researchers estimate the ice cabinets restraining the unstable sector of West Antarctica might lose half their quantity inside the subsequent 200 years.

“This work demonstrates the ability of satellite tv for pc observations to grasp change in the good polar ice sheets,” stated Thomas Wagner, Program Supervisor for Cryospheric Sciences at NASA Headquarters. “And with information spanning a long time, we will perceive a number of the most vital adjustments and their implications for sea-level rise.”

Fricker stated future research will think about the causes behind adjustments in ice shelf quantity, together with the results of the ambiance and ocean.

“We’re wanting into connections between El Niño occasions in the tropical Pacific and adjustments in the Antarctic ice sheet,” stated Paolo. “It’s very far aside however we all know that these teleconnections exist. Which will in the end permit us to enhance our fashions for predicting future ice loss.”

Publication: Fernando S. Paolo, et al., “Quantity loss from Antarctic ice cabinets is accelerating,” Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0940

Photos: Scripps Establishment of Oceanography, UC San Diego

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