Changing Antarctic Winds to Accelerate Sea Level Rise

Written by on July 11, 2014 in Other News, Physical Oceanography

New research shows that changes to the winds circling Antarctica are increasing water temperatures beneath the ice along the coastline of West and East Antarctica and potentially accelerating the rate of global sea level rise.

Antarctic ice.

Antarctic ice. Photo credit: Liam Quinn via photopin cc.

Most sea level rise studies focus on the rate of melting ice due to overall warming of the ocean, but this research from University of New South Wales and Australian National University is the first to include the impact of changing winds.

“When we included projected Antarctic wind shifts in a detailed global ocean model, we found water up to 4°C warmer than current temperatures rose up to meet the base of the Antarctic ice shelves,” lead author Dr. Paul Spence from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science said in a news release.

Dr. Spence explained that the sub-surface warming is on average twice as much as previously estimated.

“This relatively warm water provides a huge reservoir of melt potential right near the grounding lines of ice shelves around Antarctica. It could lead to a massive increase in the rate of ice sheet melt, with direct consequences for global sea level rise,” he said.

“It was one of the few cases where I hoped the science was wrong.”

These findings may help explain why some glaciers in the Western Antarctic are melting at rates much faster than scientists expected. It also may explain other sudden increases in global sea levels that have occurred in the geologic past.

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Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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