The melting of Antarctica is not expecting to slow down anytime soon. In fact, scientists believe that the glacial melting of the southernmost continent is thawing at an irrevocable rate, according to a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.
Totten Glacier, a glacial behemoth located in East Antarctica, is thinning faster than any other glacier in the Antarctic. An international team of scientists collected data from Totten Glacier to determine the severity of the situation and determined that the warming ocean is the culprit – the same cause of the melting ice in West Antarctica.
Circumpolar Deep Water, or a salty current formed by mixing ocean waters, has increased in temperature and is melting the base of the ice shelves. At about 400-500 meters deep, the scientists discovered entrances to the ice shelf cavity where warm water can seep in. Additionally, radar sounding proved that an inland trough links the ice shelf to the ocean.
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“Now we know the ocean is melting ice in an area of the glacier that we thought was totally cut off before,” the paper’s lead author, Jamin Greenbaum, Ph.D. said. “Knowing this will improve predictions of ice melt and the timing of future glacier retreat.”
The warmer current has been observed in both the winter and summer months, researchers said, and the implications are serious. The findings of the study will have global consequences, as the ice flowing through the Totten Glacier alone will result in a worldwide sea level rise of 11 feet. This repercussion of climate change was thought to only be taking place in West Antarctica, but these new findings indicate that East Antarctica is just as vulnerable.
“We’ve basically shown that the submarine basins of East Antarctica have similar configurations and coastal vulnerabilities to the submarine basins of West Antarctica that we’re so worried about,” Donald Blakenship, a researcher at University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics said. “That warm ocean water, which is having a huge impact in West Antarctica, is affecting East Antarctica, as well.”