The glacial melting in Antarctica is much worse than previously estimated, according to a new study conducted by an international team of scientists. Last year, researchers found that the giant ice sheet of West Antarctica might have been irreversibly destabilized due to climate change, and it could lead to more than 10 feet rise in global sea levels.
Additional melting could lead to 11 feet rise in sea levels
Now scientists have found that the gigantic glacier of East Antarctica is also melting at a rapid pace, which could increase the sea level by another 11 feet. Between 2008 and 2013, scientists flew aircraft equipped with laser, radar and other sensors over the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica to determine ice thickness and reasons behind its rapid retreat.
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Using evidence from the Totten Glacier, researchers said that Totten was losing ice due to warm ocean water getting underneath it. Totten is the fastest thinning section of the world’s largest ice sheet. Jamin Greenbaum of the University of Texas and lead author of the study, said it would have “significant global consequences.”
Two pathways channeling warm water under East Antarctica glacier
They discovered two pathways that were channeling warm water under the Totten Glacier. A three miles trough was formed as a gateway deep underneath the glacier, along with a tunnel. These are allowing warm ocean water to penetrate the glacier base. The Totten Glacier covers an area of 90 x 22 miles. According to the Australian Antarctic Division, it is losing an amount of ice “equivalent to 100 times the volume of Sydney Harbor every year.”
Researchers said that their estimate of 11 feet rise in sea level due to melting in East Antarctica was “a conservative lower limit.” Until recently, it was believed that the East Antarctica ice sheet was surrounded by cold waters, so it was very stable. An 11 feet rise from melting in East Antarctica and another 10 feet rise due to melting in West Antarctica could inundate homes of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Findings of the study were published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.