Home Tech First Evidence of Key Antarctic Ice Loss Driver Uncovered

First Evidence of Key Antarctic Ice Loss Driver Uncovered

For the primary time, scientists have uncovered physics-based proof demonstrating that the thinning of floating ice cabinets encircling the sting of mainland Antarctica is inflicting a rise in ice stream from the land to the ocean.

The Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS)—the biggest single mass of ice on Earth, protecting about 98 % of the southern continent—is presently dropping mass. And the speed at which this mass loss is contributing to sea-level rise is rising.

The AIS is encircled by floating, sea-based ice cabinets that encompass the continent and assist maintain the land-based ice cabinets in place.

Data has proven that lately, these floating ice cabinets that encompass the AIS are thinning—probably in consequence of ocean warming or modifications in ocean circulation. But whereas scientists have suspected that this thinning could also be liable for the noticed ice loss from the AIS, the speculation has not been confirmed.

Now, researchers have offered proof that thinning in these floating ice cabinets is driving ice loss from the inside of the continent, in accordance with a research printed within the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

A crew of scientists led by Hilmar Gudmundsson from Northumbria University within the U.Ok. examined continent-wide satellite tv for pc measurements taken between 1994 and 2017, with a selected concentrate on what’s generally known as the “grounding line”—the purpose the place the land-based ice sheets meet the floating, sea-based ice cabinets.

The crew additionally used superior ice-flow fashions and in contrast this knowledge with the modifications seen within the satellite tv for pc pictures during the last quarter of a century. When the outcomes had been in contrast the scientists say they discovered “striking and robust” similarities within the sample of ice flowing from the ice sheet into the ocean.

“I found it striking how well our modeled changes agree with the pattern of observed mass loss,” Gudmundsson mentioned. “There are other processes in play as well, but we can now state firmly that the observed changes in ice-shelves do cause significant changes over the grounded ice, speeding up its flow into the ocean.”

First Evidence of Key Antarctic Ice Loss Driver Uncovered
A map of Antarctica. Northumbria University

According to the researchers, one of the important thing findings of the research was the truth that the thinning of the floating ice cabinets led to an virtually fast loss of ice from the inside into the ocean.

“One of the most important lessons from this study is that the impact is felt without any delay,” Gudmundsson mentioned. “Generally, we distinguish between an instantaneous response or a delayed, transient response. Our study shows the thinning of the ice shelves results in a significant instantaneous response to ice flow and ongoing mass loss. This means that we are not protected against the impact of the Antarctic Ice Sheet on global sea levels by a long response time.”

“This study closes an important hole in our understanding. Lack of data and limitations in modeling previously made it challenging to quantify the importance of ocean-induced changes as a driver for ongoing mass loss, but we have now shown that the observed ice-shelf changes do indeed impact on upstream flow significantly.”

According to Fernando Paolo from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the most recent findings have important implications for our understanding of ice mass loss in Antarctica.

“It is striking how far inland the changes in ice shelves can impact the ice sheet flow,” he mentioned in an announcement. “Since we now know that shrinking ice shelves are directly responsible for increases in ice discharge to the ocean, it is important that we keep monitoring them to watch how they evolve.”

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