A paper published today in the science journal Nature reveals that the melting of Antarctica’s ice sheet is being driven by a warming ocean more than a warming atmosphere. Which means even though summer air temperatures have not yet warmed enough to substantially melt Antarctica’s surface snows, the oceans are undermining the frozen continent from below—fueling a recent, widespread, and intensifying glacier acceleration and its accompanying rise in sea levels.
Cracking Glacier “Really Important”
As far as sea levels are concerned, changes in the Pine Island Glacier and other West Antarctic glaciers are far more important than shifts among the continent’s other glaciers, such as East Antarctica’s Mertz Glacier—despite Mertz’s much publicized release of a Luxembourg-size iceberg in early 2010.
By contrast, “West Antarctica has ice streams, of which Pine Island is one. Those are fast-flowing streams of ice,” said Martinson, who specializes in polar oceans.
When ice breaks off the Pine Island Glacier, he said, more ice can flow in faster from the mountains above—ice that will eventually wind up contributing to sea level rise.
“This glacier,” NSIDC’s Scambos added, “is really important.”
Prostrate on the icy tundra of the Antarctic, they appear the picture of misery after the deaths of their chicks.
The extraordinary image capturing penguins in an act of mass mourning was taken on the Riiser Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica by photographer Daniel J. Cox.
This is horrifying.