|Front of Ross Ice Shelf from research icebreaker Palmer. |
Photo © Bruce Luyendyk
Antarctic ice shelves are thinning. What are ice shelves and are they important in any way? These massive floating sheets of ice border over a third of the Antarctic coast.
Using satellite data scientists looked at the thickness of ice shelves around Antarctica and how that has changed over the past eighteen years. They found the shelves remained unchanged over the period 1994-2003 but thinned (shrunk) rapidly during 2003 to 2012 losing over three hundred cubic kilometers of volume. Their interpretation is that the rate of mass loss (thinning) is accelerating. The cause believed responsible for the thinning of the floating ice shelves is warming from beneath by an ocean heated by global warming.
|Processes around an Antarctic ice shelf. © Hannes Grobe. Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany.|
1. Fernando S. Paolo, Helen A. Fricker, and Laurie Padman. (2015), Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating. Science 17 April 2015: 348 (6232), 327-331.Published online 26 March 2015 [DOI:10.1126/science.aaa0940]