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Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting Even Faster Than Previously Thought

Image: Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting Even Faster Than Previously Thought

This image shows retreat of Smith, Pope, and Kohler Glaciers. (Screengrab via Twitter)

By    |   Wednesday, 26 Oct 2016 09:25 AM

The western Antarctic ice sheet is melting even faster than previously thought as the planet continues its warming trend, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Nature.

The new study part of a continuing NASA project dubbed IceBridge, said rapid melting in Antarctica could increase worldwide sea levels, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Between 2009 and 2014, melting rates of two glaciers, called Pope and Kohler, slowed some because of less incoming warm ocean waters, but Smith Glacier continued to retreat in this time period, The Wall Street Journal noted.

"Smith's fast retreat and thinning are likely related to the shape of its underlying bedrock," said a statement from NASA released Tuesday. "The other two glaciers studied are on differently shaped beds and are retreating more slowly."

National Public Radio reported that Antarctica, which is bigger than the U.S. and Mexico combined, is covered in deep ice and is more than a mile deep in some places. Giant glaciers on its western edge slope down toward the sea and form ice shelves.

"You have this floating plate of ice being fed by the glaciers flowing from the interior of the continent while having ocean water underneath it," Ala Khazendar, a geophysicist and polar expert at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told NPR.

Khazendar told NPR that as the bottom of the ice melts, more ice becomes exposed to warmer water, creating a "runaway process" that "makes it unstable." Scientists fear, according to NPR, that the shelves will eventually collapse, forcing the glaciers to flow into sea.

"The simple answer is we don't know," Khazendar told NPR. And that's the scary part."

Khazendar and Bernd Scheuchl, of the University of California, Irvine, said in the NASA statement that researchers need more data on the shape of the bedrock and seafloor beneath the ice, among other information, to better predict how much ice these glaciers will contribute to the ocean in a changing climate.

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The western Antarctic ice sheet is melting even faster than previously thought as the planet continues its warming trend, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Nature.
antarctic, ice sheet, melting, faster
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2016-25-26
Wednesday, 26 Oct 2016 09:25 AM
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