Scientists have found that warm ocean water is melting the ice shelves of Antarctica, and this could result in the rise of global sea levels. The expanses of Antarctic ice become smaller when iceberg chunks break off floating ice shelves that undergo fast melting. The ice shelves melt from below and are invisible from above.
When the ice shelves shed weight, it results in speeding up of the flow of land glaciers that feed them, moving the ice from continent to the ocean. This, in turn, results in global sea level rise. So it is important to be aware of what is the root cause of ice-shelf melt.
One of the studies released on June 13 in the journal Science, reveals that, on an average, ice shelves of Antarctica are thinning by about 1.6 feet or 50 cm per year.
Some shelves are melting so quickly, as much as 328 feet (100 meters) annually, as viewed by Eric Rignot, a study co-author and researcher at the University of California, Irvine. He adds these variations are faster and larger than the people’s anticipation.
Rignot further says that melting is not primarily due to global warming of ocean, but rather by a change in ocean circulation which brings warmer water from offshore.
He also pointed out that, stronger “zonal” winds that breeze in the clockwise direction around Antarctica have pushed the cold surface waters away from the continent, thereby bringing in warmer water which melts the ice shelves.