Hidden Channels Beneath Antarctica Could Cause Massive Melt

Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Climate Change, Environment with 1 Comment

West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Laura Geggel | LiveScience

A glacier the size of California in East Antarctica is in danger of melting away, which could lead to an extreme thaw increases sea levels by about 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) worldwide if the glacier vanishes, a new study finds.

Researchers have found two seafloor channels underneath the floating ice shelf of Totten Glacier in East Antarctica. The channels may let the warmest waters near the glacier to enter beneath the floating ice shelf, causing the rapid thinning of the ice shelf observed to date, the scientists said.

As the ice shelf thins, the point where the glacier starts to float will retreat, raising the sea level, and exposing more ice to the ocean, said the study's lead author, Jamin Greenbaum, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics. [Vanishing Glaciers: See Stunning Images of Earth's Melting Ice]

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest body of ice in the world. “It's larger than West Antarctica, it's larger than Greenland, it's huge,” Greenbaum told Live Science. And “within the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Totten Glacier is the most rapidly thinning glacier. Its vulnerability to deep warm water, that we identify, is the most likely explanation to for its [thinning] behavior.”

Scientists once thought an underwater ridge in East Antarctica protected the ice shelf from warm water, but the new study shows otherwise.


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  1.' Laura DeMars says:

    Couldn’t get past your first sentence. Write better and more people will read it.

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