Yet another Antarctic ice mass is becoming destabilized, scientists report

Washington Post, By Chris Mooney, May 22

The troubling news continues this week for the Antarctic peninsula region, which juts out from the icy continent.

Last week, scientists documented threats to the Larsen C and the remainder of the Larsen B ice shelf (most of which collapsed in 2002). The remnant of Larsen B, NASA researchers said, may not last past 2020. And as for Larsen C, the Scotland-sized ice shelf could also be at potentially “imminent risk” due to a rift across its mass that is growing in size (though it appears more stable than the remainder of Larsen B).

And the staccato of May melt news isn’t over, it seems. Thursday in Science, researchers from the University of Bristol in Britain, along with researchers from Germany, France and the Netherlands, reported on the retreat of a suite of glaciers farther south from Larsen B and C along the Bellingshausen Sea, in a region known as the Southern Antarctic Peninsula. (For a helpful map of the region, see here.)

Using satellite based and gravity measurements, the research team found that “a major portion of the region has, since 2009, destabilized” and accounts for “a major fraction of Antarctica’s contribution to rising sea level.”


What’s particularly notable about the new study is the apparent rapid onset of the change. The researchers say the region is now losing on the order of 56 gigatons of ice per year — a gigaton is a billion metric tons — and that there appears to have been “a remarkable rate of acceleration in dynamic mass loss since about 2009 that must have been near-simultaneous across multiple basins and glaciers.”

Techie News: ESA’s CryoSat detects sudden ice loss in otherwise stable Southern Antarctic Peninsula

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