Scientists Finally Discover Real Reason Behind Melting Ice in Antarctic Peninsula
As the world continues to warm, Antarctica--the world's greatest reservoir of ice--is swiftly approaching its doom.
For years, we have seen sea levels being pushed to heights that have never been reached before and have witnessed rapid ice melting that has threatened the species inhabiting the region.
A study published in journal Nature last month estimated that if the rate of melting ice and retreating glacier continues, sea levels could rise by 86 centimeters by 2100.
At present, the Antarctic Peninsula located at the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica is one of the largest current contributors to sea-level rise. As mentioned by Climate Central, despite making up only 4 percent of Antarctica's total ice sheet area, they have accounted for about 25 percent of its mass loss.
For years, scientists thought that ice melting in the Peninsula was due to warm air temperature. Yet according to a new study published in journal Nature, ocean warming, not high air temperature, is actually the key culprit for the glacier retreat.
As those glaciers are undercut, the land-bound ice behind them stream faster to the sea, causing a rise to global sea levels.
"Scientists know that ocean warming is affecting large glaciers elsewhere on the continent, but thought that atmospheric temperatures were the primary cause of all glacier changes on the Peninsula. We now know that's not the case," Dr. Alison Cook, who led the study at Swansea University, told Science Daily.
Roughly 90 percent of the 674 glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated since 1940s. But as far as observation and records show, the rate of glacier retreat varies from those on the western side of the peninsula, especially those facing south.
With the help of British Antarctic Survey, Swansea University conducted an analysis of glacial retreat and ocean temperature patterns. Results revealed that water at medium depths toward the southern tip of the Peninsula had been rapidly warming since the 1990s, while the warmest water to the north is found much deeper, as per a report from United Press International.
"Where mid-depth waters from the deep ocean intrude onto the continental shelf and spread towards the coast, they bring heat that causes the glaciers to break up and melt. These waters have become warmer and moved to shallower depths in recent decades, causing glacier retreat to accelerate." said co-author Professor Mike Meredith of British Antarctic Survey in a press release.