Achilles Heal of Ice Shelves

CC image from Flicker

CC image from Flicker

By: Georgette R.

90 percent of ice from Antarctica is lost due to melting beneath the surface! It has been previously believed that the major cause of ice loss was due to pieces of ice breaking off, called iceberg calving. Researchers at the University of Bristol, the University of California, and Utrecht University have now found that calving may account for less than 10 percent of the loss of ice, and that ice shelves thinning on its underside is the new leading cause. Since Antarctica is the largest ice mass on the planet, it was important for these researchers to be precise in determining their observations. Using satellite and airborne missions, combined with information for snowfall over the ice sheet from a climate model, researchers compared the amount of ice leaving versus the amount of snow and ice accumulating. This allowed them to figure out how much ice was lost by each process. Their conclusion was shocking. Although Icebergs account for 2,800 cubic kilometers of ice loss each year, they are not the biggest reason for ice melting in Antarctica. Now we know that melting underneath the ice shelves is the biggest factor for ice imbalance. (Read more...)

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