Part of the world’s largest ice shelf is melting 10 times quicker than the rest, shedding light on how it may respond to climate change. A study of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf reveals that one area is melting because of relatively warm sea water getting into a cavity below the shelf. The findings have implications for future sea level rise. It is since the Ross Ice Shelf plays a significant role in stabilizing this broader region of Antarctica. Details have been published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The Ross Ice Shelf is a frozen block about the size of France that floats at the southern part of Antarctica’s Ross Sea.

In certain areas, it may be about 750m thick. Ice shelves like this are formed continuously by glaciers that feed them. Subsequently, the shelves act as a brake on the glaciers and also moderate the amount of melting that happens on the glaciers surfaces. Countless penguin chicks wiped out. No function for the climate in Halley’s iceberg. Satellite fix protects data. In other regions of Antarctica, deep sea water has generated some ice shelves to lean in the past couple of decades. But across its whole Expanse, the Ross Ice Shelf seems to be stable. Scientists have spent years building up a list of the northwest sector of the Ross Sea ice interacts with the sea beneath it.

They found the Sun heats sea surface water that then flows into a cavity below the shelf inducing melt rates to grow – especially throughout the summer months. The stability of the ice shelves is usually believed be associated with their exposure to warm deep sea water, but we have found that solar heated surface water also plays an important role in melting ice shelves,” stated co-author Dr. Craig Stewart from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand. The findings are important since The Ross Ice Shelf stabilizes the West Antarctic Ice Sheet by obstructing the ice that flows into it in some of the world’s largest glaciers.

This has consequences for the rise of the sea level in the future. Previous research has shown that whenever ice shelves collapse, the feeding glaciers can speed up by a factor of two or 3, stated co-writer Dr. Paul Kristoffersen of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge, UK. The gap here’s the sheer size of Ross Ice Shelf, which is over one hundred times bigger than the ice shelves we have already seen disappear. The melting is impacted by a huge area of open sea in front of the ice shelf that’s empty of sea ice due to strong offshore winds. This area, known as the Ross Sea Polynya, absorbs solar heat fast and this solar source of heat is clearly influencing melting in the ice shelf cavity.