EGU 2102: it’s an ill wind for Antarctica’s ice shelves
Changes in the wind circulation around Antarctica are causing the region’s ice shelves to lose ice, explained David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey to journalists at the EGU 2012 assembly in Vienna. But the mechanism is different, depending on where the ice shelves are located.
As detailed in a publication in Nature today, of which Vaughan is a co-author, in West and East Antarctica ocean-warming caused by wind changes is melting ice shelves from below. And where ice shelves have thinned, glaciers inland have accelerated as the buttressing effect of the ice shelf is removed.
On the eastern Antarctic Peninsula, on the other hand, it looks like wind-induced atmospheric warming is the culprit - it’s melting snow on the surface of the ice shelves. Some thinning in this region is also due to loss of air compacting the ice.
The team used laser measurements from NASA’s ICESat satellite for 2003-2008 to look at 54 - almost all - of Antarctica’s ice shelves. Warm ocean currents were pinpointed as melting 20 of the ice shelves, mainly in West Antarctica. Indeed the researchers ascribed the majority of Antarctica’s ice loss to ocean change.
TrackBack URL for this entry: