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Secrets of Antarctic Sea Ice to be Unveiled

Aug 31, 2016 08:39 AM EDT

More than a decade of developments have led to a break through technique that will finally allow scientists to measure historic changes in Antarctic sea ice.

Scientists at Plymouth University collaborated with peers from various international institutions to develop a new technique for measuring historic sea ice changes in the Antarctic. Their methodology is outlined in a paper published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

This technique builds on a technique developed throughout the last 10 years to measure changes in Arctic sea ice. The previous technique was also developed at Plymouth University.

"In addition to allowing us to unlock historical changes to Antarctic sea ice, our new method also has the potential to provide further insights into other critical climatic features that may have changed in the past," lead author and professor of Chemistry at Plymouth University Simon Belt said in a release.

"Indeed, sea ice around the Antarctic coastline is strongly influenced by nearby glaciers and ice shelves, both of which contribute to increased global sea level when they melt. Therefore, our new approach may also permit a much broader spectrum of climatic changes to be unraveled in the future."

The scientists can now study how past changes in climate affected glaciers and ice shelves in the Antarctic. Using the earlier method, they already found time periods when there was no sea ice in the Arctic during summers.

IP25, the chemical used to measure changes in Arctic sea ice, is not present in Antartica. Researchers were able to find a similar chemical that is present in the Antarctic Ocean.

The lipid chemicals are made by micro algae and live on the bottom of sea ice. Both techniques analyze lipids from the chemical which are introduced into sediment when the ice melts.

Sea ice in Antartica, though considered vulnerable, has yet to experience significant melting. Arctic sea ice is already experiencing rapid melting.

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