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.
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.
To learn more:
- Read the news release: Changing Antarctic winds create new sea level threat.
- Find the fully study: Rapid subsurface warming and circulation changes of Antarctic coastal waters by poleward shifting winds.
Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.