Why Antarctica is melting?

Melting at the base of Antarctica's Fimbul Ice Shelf is driven by warm surface water, as well as intermittent pulses of warmer, deeper water.


Researcher Tore Hattermann and electrician Johan Hustadnes have recently dug up data that have been stored in the Antarctic ice. Photo: Stein Tronstad / Norwegian Polar Institute

Tore Hattermann of the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø and his co-workers collected temperature data in 2010 and 2011 from three moorings installed below the Fimbul shelf. Their data suggest that the shelf is affected by surface waters warmed by solar radiation and by freshwater run-off from sea-ice melt during the late summer and autumn. Eddies also bring warm water from the depths to underneath the ice shelf, often in pulses lasting less than 10 hours, writes Nature.

Although previous studies have pinpointed temperature changes in deep water as mediating the increased ice melting due to climate change, the findings paint a more complex picture of melting at the Fimbul ice shelf.

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Geophys. Res. Lett. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2012GL051012 (2012)