Study reveals East Antarctic ice’s vulnerability to ocean heat

Study reveals East Antarctic ice’s vulnerability to ocean heat

Harsh winds and chilly ocean currents have cut off East Antarctica from the rest of the world, and its massive stores of ice have mostly remained intact. But, researchers have discovered major melting that could foretell a less stable future for the region.

Last year, a team of Australian researchers found a channel of warm water nearly 10 kilometers wide and 1 kilometer deep in front of the massive Totten Glacier, causing it to unprecedentedly melt.

Steve Rintoul, lead author of the study, said that it was the first time when researchers had been able to test the hypothesis that warm ocean waters were driving Totten Glacier’s thinning.

Speaking on the topic, Rintoul added, “We knew the Totten has been thinning faster than other glaciers in East Antarctica … we found that warmer ocean water is reaching the cavity through this channel at temperatures capable of melting the ice shelf at the point where it meets ground.”

The researchers stressed that it was crucial to be able to predict Totten Glacier’s future behavior as it contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by nearly 3.5 meters.

The findings, shedding light on the East Antarctic ice sheet’s vulnerability to ocean heat, were detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Science Advances.

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