In December we posted about NOAA’s Arctic Report Card 2012, which showed record low ice and snowfall in the Arctic. Nevertheless, some have pointed to the recent growth of Antarctic ice to suggest that climate change may not be a dramatic as feared. Nevertheless, a recent study by researchers from Ohio State University and other institutions, published in Nature Geoscience, has found that the Antarctic is warming at twice the rate previously predicted. Melting of Antarctic ice could significantly increase the rise of the sea levels around the world.
The Arctic is transforming before our eyes, but it’s changes in Antarctica that could make Waterworld into a documentary.
That day is still in the distant future—in fact, sea ice in Antarctica has actually increased in recent years, as more powerful northward winds refreeze ice on the continent. But as a new study published in Nature Geoscience shows, temperatures are on the increase in the massive West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS)—and so is melting.
As lead author David Bromwich put it in a statement:
Our record suggests that continued summer warming in West Antarctica could upset the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, so that the region could make an even bigger contribution to sea level rise than it already does.
Even without generating significant mass loss directly, surface melting on the WAIS could contribute to sea level indirectly, by weakening the West Antarctic ice shelves that restrain the region’s natural ice flow into the ocean.