New findings: Ocean currents melting Antarctica’s ice

Researchers have long known that Antarctica’s ice is melting at an alarming rate, but now they have discovered that ocean currents play a larger role than previously thought. A new study shows that it’s not just winds and weather that affect ice melt, but also how water moves beneath the surface.

OCEAN CURRENTS BRING WARM WATER TO THE ICE

Researchers have discovered that ocean currents winding along the seabed can bring warm water closer to the ice. When the warm water comes into contact with the underside of the ice, it melts faster. This is particularly concerning for two of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves, Pine Island and Thwaites, which are already melting at an alarming rate.

THE ICE ACTS AS A BARRIER

The Pine Island and Thwaites ice shelves act as massive barriers that prevent the glaciers behind them from flowing out into the sea. If these ice shelves melt and collapse, it could lead to the glaciers behind them flowing out much faster. According to the researchers, a complete collapse of the Thwaites Glacier alone could contribute to more than half a meter of global sea level rise and also destabilize nearby glaciers, potentially leading to an additional 3 meters of global sea level rise.

EL NIÑO IS NOT THE WHOLE EXPLANATION

Previously, researchers believed that weather and wind, such as during the El Niño weather phenomenon, were the primary causes of ice melt. But this new study shows that ocean currents play at least as big a role. This gives us a better understanding of what affects the ice and how we can predict future changes.

IMPORTANT TO SLOW DOWN CLIMATE CHANGE

The researchers behind the study emphasize the importance of continuing to monitor and study Antarctica’s ice and ocean currents. But the most important thing is that we humans do what we can to slow down climate change. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we can hopefully slow down warming and give Antarctica’s ice a chance to recover.

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Per-Olof Hall

Writes about health and sustainability, combining unique insights with over 15 years of experience as owner and consultant at PlanetPeople AB.