Why the Antarctic Ice Sheets are Melting

New research from Victoria University in Australia has revealed new findings pointing to why the Antarctic ice sheets have melted in the past, and how they might be most affected in the future, and how their current-day degradation might affect the ocean levels.

In a paper published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Geoscience, researcher Dr. Andrew Mackintosh, along with colleagues Dr. Nick Golledge and Dr. Dan Zwartz, looked at the retreat of the East Antarctic ice sheet at the end of the Last Glacial Period, and what caused the melting of the ice sheets; sea level rise or ocean warming.

“Our research looked at how ice sheets behave, in particular the East Antarctic ice sheet. The retreat of this ice sheet at the end of the last glacial period has previously been attributed to both sea level rise and ocean warming,” says Dr. Mackintosh.

“We found that although the initial stage of retreat may have been forced by sea level rise, the majority of the ice loss resulted from ocean warming. Increasing ocean warmth seems to be the main driver of ice sheet retreat.”

“This means that we should be particularly concerned about the present-day warming of the oceans around the Antarctic periphery. Our findings suggest that a substantial contribution from melting ice sheets to global sea level rise in the near future is very likely.”

Mackintosh and colleagues used computer models of ice retreat thousands of years ago compared with geological data to gain an understanding of what the future might hold for the oceans and the Antarctic ice sheets.

Source: Victoria University via PhysOrg
Image Source: NASA

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