The ice sheet in West Antarctica is melting faster than expected. New observations published by oceanographers from the University of Gothenburg and the US may improve our ability to predict future changes in ice sheet mass. The study was recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
A reduction of the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland will affect the water levels of the world's oceans.
It is therefore problematic that we currently have insufficient knowledge about the ocean circulation near large glaciers in West Antarctica. This means that researchers cannot predict how water levels will change in the future with any large degree of certainty.
"There is a clear reduction in the ice mass in West Antarctica, especially around the glaciers leading into the Amundsen Sea," says researcher Lars Arneborg from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.
Together with his research colleagues Anna Wåhlin, Göran Björk and Bengt Liljebladh, he has studied the ocean circulation in the Amundsen Sea.
One reason why West Antarctica is particularly sensitive is that the majority of the ice rests on areas that are below sea level. Warm sea water penetrates beneath the ice, causing increased melting from underneath.
"It is therefore probably a change in the ocean circulation in the Amundsen Sea that has caused this increased melting," continues Arneborg.
Until now, researchers have been referred to studies that use high-resolution computer models.
"But there have been very few oceanographic measurements from the Amundsen Sea to confirm or contradict the results from the computer models. Nor has there been any winter data. Sea ice and icebergs have made it impossible to get there in the winter, and it isn't easy to have instruments in place all year round."
However, since 2010 the researchers from Gothenburg have managed to have instruments positioned in the Amundsen Sea, enabling them to measure the inward flow of warm sea water towards the glaciers.
The observations show that the warm sea water flows towards the glaciers in a more or less constand current all year round, in contrast to the model results which suggested a strong seasonal cycle.
"This shows just how important observations are for investigating whether the models we use describe something that resembles reality. Warm ocean currents have caused much more melting than any model has predicted, both in West Antarctica and around Greenland.
The researchers want more and longer time series of oceanographic observations in order to improve the models and achieve a better understanding.
"Only then will we be able to say something about how the ice masses of the Antarctic and Greenland will change in the future."
University of Gothenburg: http://www.gu.se/english
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Two injured Sherpas recount the horrific avalanche on Mount Everest.
Two new studies help determine age of Antarctic ice and former climate
It was an extra special Earth Day for 31 endangered sea turtles which were released back into the wild at Little Talbot Island near Jacksonville, Fla. The animals had spent months in rehabilitation at New England Aquarium's rescue center, being treated for hypothermia.
The Pakistani government hopes to turn a desolate stretch of sand into a state-of-the-art solar energy park, in a bid to tackle the country's chronic power shortages
On Earth Day, we celebrate a planet that has nurtured human life. But it wasn't always so nice—and as the climate changes, it may get worse
Let people who love sore backs and dirty fingernails painstakingly tend their gardenias. Today’s backyard should be a maximized, automated, hyperefficient system of caloric production. With a little science—and some engineering prowess—you can keep your plot tidy, pest-free, and healthy while barely lifting a finger. So kick back with a gin-spiked kombucha and let your self-maintaining yard crank out the zero-mile arugula.
James Day Winemaking may conjure images of sun-dappled vineyards and grand châteaus. But a typical bottle of Napa Cabernet owes more to lab-coat-wearing chemists than to barefoot grape stompers. Like most foodstuffs, wine has been thoroughly industrialized.
A group of researchers in Florida may have found a way to control the weather, through the use of dual lasers
Environmentalists have long worried about biofuels like corn ethanol. But a new study shows that even advanced biofuels, which use waste from crops like corn to make fuel, may hurt the climate
Animals sometimes sleep inside the hollows of giant 2,000-year old baobab trees inside Kruger Game Preserve in South Africa. Humans too, sometimes use the trees, for more dubious purposes -- a jail, a toilet, a pop-up bar -- as photographer Rachel Sussman discovered when she toured the park to photograph the trees for her new book, The Oldest Living Things in the World.