Recent research has found that the 8 out of the 65 underwater glaciers in Antarctica are melting at an alarming rate. The study stated that approximately 1,463 sq km of ice has melted between the years 2010 and 2016. This measurement is equivalent of a section slightly smaller than the area of Greater London.
The study, published in Nature Geoscience, goes on to state that 10 percent of Antarctica’s glaciers have started to retreat by 25 meters every year. Hannes Konrad, who is working as the leader of University of Leeds’ research team, says that the evidence has shown that glacier retreat has been happening on the whole continent and not just a specific area of it. Konrad continues to state that the retreat is happening across the entire sheet of ice because the ice at the base of the ocean is melting and not in specific spots.
West Antarctica has seen a greater loss of ice since the Thwaites Glacier started to melt rapidly since 2010. However, on the other hand, the Pine Island Glacier has stopped retreating even though it has been the quickest melting ice glacier as of now. This goes to show the how much instability there is in the nature of the ice sheet. The complex nature of each of the ice glaciers makes it hard to detect what areas need more attention in order to preserve them further.
How do they track the glaciers?
With the help of satellites, the research team was able to track 16,000 km of coastline that equated to 65 glaciers. All of this was done following the grounding lines. The grounding lines are the spots present under the water; they indicate where the glaciers have touched the bottom of the sea. It is not exactly right at the bottom of the sea level, but instead a kilometer above it.
From 2010 to 2016 the researchers kept studying the height of the glacier’s surface with the use of satellites. This way the researchers were able to determine how much of ice had melted. It was through these observations that the researchers discovered that one of the main causes of increased glacier retreat is warming of seawater. The climate change is occurring at an aggressive level and so that keeps the water warm.
The warm water present in the depths of the ocean is melting the ice sheets at a much higher rate than required. This sort of retreat will hinder the inland glaciers. Since these glaciers become released from the seabed it changes the friction inside it. This will cause the retreat and increase the level of the sea globally.
Though a lot of the ice glaciers are retreating, a small amount of them have started to increase in size, such as the Totten glacier. However, it is a very small number compared to the number of glaciers actually retreating.
The data collected now will help determine how much the rate of sea levels rising will increase or decrease over time.