Scientists are debating the real reasons for global warming, which has caused a lot of change in landscapes all over the world. Earth has many types of natural terrain, which includes glaciers at both poles that aren’t inhabited by people. The ice shelves at the two poles are the least explored, but researchers have now discovered that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is not as stable as previously thought. As a result, global warming could cause a drastic increase in sea level.
Scientists have discovered parts of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet which are susceptible to the warming of the oceans and atmosphere, which could result in an increase of sea levels around the world by 10 to 15 feet. That could be disastrous to many cities that lie along Earth’s coastlines.
More importantly, the ice sheet contains more water than any other ice sheet in the world. Before this discovery, scientists barely found any change in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Even though other frozen masses near the shelf were melting, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet was always sufficiently stable, as it wasn’t gaining or losing mass for a long time.
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A group of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of South Florida discovered all of this while conducting research on the subject and then published their findings in the journal Nature on Dec. 14. The team also discovered that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet has a long history of expanding and shrinking.
“It turns out that for much of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet’s history, it was not the commonly perceived large stable ice sheet with only minor changes in size over millions of years,” said Sean Gulick, co-lead author of the study and a research professor at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, in a press release.
The researchers said in their paper that the results of the study were derived from geophysical and geological data collected during an oceanographic survey of East Antarctica’s Sabrina Coast. An area on the glacier called the Aurora Basin sits below sea level, which makes it susceptible to melting as sea temperatures near Greenland, the Arctic and the Antarctic are rising. The Sabrina Coast and Aurora Basin were discovered as areas on the ice shelf that are at risk of melting.
“A lot of what we are seeing right now in the coastal regions is that warming ocean waters are melting Antarctica’s glaciers and ice shelves, but this process may just be the beginning,” co-lead author Amelia Shevenell said in the press release. “Once you have that combination of ocean heat and atmospheric heat – which are related – that’s when the ice sheet could really experience dramatic ice mass loss.”