Accelerated Antarctic Ice Melt and Sea Level 'Likely to Rise'

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By Afza Fathima | July 8, 2014 10:33 AM EST

A new Australian research has shown there will be an accelerated ice melt in Antarctica and a consequent increase in the sea level.

A model drafted by the scientists of the University of New South Wales showed how the shifts in wind patterns can pull out the warm water currents up to the base of giant ice. 

Reuters
Workers play soccer in East Antarctica June 19, 2014

Paul Spence from the Climate Change Research Centre at University of New South Wales said, "What you usually have is cold water sitting next to the ice shelves at about minus 2 degrees Celsius and then warm water further out. We found by using projected wind forces to the end of this century that warm waters tend to flood onshore, right next to the grounding lines of the glacial ice sheets."

When warm water displaces cold water, it can get four degrees warmer, the researchers suggested. Dr. Spence commented this could lead to a huge increase in the rate of ice sheet melt with direct consequences for global sea level rise. This alarm suggested all is not well in Antarctica. 

Warnings by glaciologists have come in that the melting of the ice sheets, unstable ones, is irreversible in West Antarctica when compared to the stable East Antarctic ice sheets which are facing the alarming ice loss.

University of New South Wales and Australian National University worked together to come out with the model, which gave shocking results. The research showed the subsurface warming is going at a rate twice as what was originally thought. A report in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed the West Antarctic ice could be melting faster than expected. 

Prof. Axel Timmerman from the University of Hawaii said, "It's plausible that the mechanism revealed by this research will push parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet beyond a point of no return. This work suggests the Antarctic ice sheets may be less stable to future climate change than previously assumed."

Dr. Spence warned that we need to bear in mind that even modest sea level rises half-a-meter to a meter is a very big change and if we are going to see estimates now of several tenths of a metre more than that by the end of this century, that's going to rapidly reshape our response to sea level rise.

Also, there is a growing concern that with a heavily populated planet, it's going to reshape our coastlines in many ways that matter in this century.

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(Photo: Reuters / Greg Stone)
Workers play soccer in East Antarctica June 19, 2014
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