“Ice shelves are the most vulnerable parts of Antarctica’s ice sheet system and we know that they are shrinking, but what we didn’t know before this work was how that was impacting the grounded ice behind them.” Helen Amanda Fricker, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Disheartening news out of Antarctica, once again, as researchers found the “first physics-based quantifiable evidence that thinning ice shelves in Antarctica are causing more ice to flow from the land into the ocean”. In other words, ice shelf buttressing is no longer a guarantee to protect us from land ice. The marine extensions of the glacier does not raise sea levels as it is already floating in the water. It is the land ice that will flood some of the most populous areas on the planet. This is all happening faster than predicted.
Research published in Geophysical Research Letters found significant changes in ice shelf loss. The shelves underbellies are being carved by upside rivers of warm ocean water which find the weakest part of the shelf causing fracturing and, inevitable cracking and, calving of enormous icebergs.
The research is summarized by the authors: