Antarctic ice sheet at risk, say scientists
A new study points out an unexpected weakness in the Antarctic ice sheet, which could melt rapidly within the next century, say scientists.
(Page 2 of 2)
By the end of the 21st century, the researchers found, the melting of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf will go from today's average rate of 0.7 feet (0.2 meters) of ice loss per year to 13 feet (4 m) per year. In some spots, as much as 164 feet (50 m) of ice will be lost each year. At a rate of 4 meters of ice loss per year, the ice sheet will shed 1,600 billion metric tons of ice annually.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Antarctica: Landscape of ice
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
A second study, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, finds that the seabed under the Filchner-Ronne Ice Sheet is steeply sloped and smooth, meaning there will be few topographical barriers to the accelerated melting.
Now researchers are working to better understand how the ice streams that feed the ice sheet will respond to the melting. The ice shelves act like corks in a wine bottle, keeping the flow of ice behind them from reaching the sea, Hellmer said. According to study researcher Jürgen Determann, who like Hellmer is from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, if the inland ice moves in lockstep with the ice sheet melting, it will mean an additional global sea level rise of 0.17 inches (4.4 millimeters) per year.
For comparison, between 2003 and 2010, sea levels rose about 0.05 inches (1.5 mm) per year because of melting ice, and an additional 0.06 inches (1.7 mm) because of thermal expansion of the warming waters.
- Ice World: Gallery of Awe-Inspiring Glaciers
- Top 10 Surprising Results of Global Warming
- North vs. South Poles: 10 Wild Differences
Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.