Nexus Media News
When climate scientists look at Antarctica, they see a ticking time bomb. If the ice sheet melts, it will raise sea levels by tens of feet, flooding coastal cities around the globe.
For now, the southern continent is relatively stable, but it’s starting to look more like Greenland, where rising temperatures are melting the island from the inside out.
For decades, Greenland primarily melted around the edges. Giant blocks of ice would break free from the coast and vanish into the ocean. Recently, however, Greenland has started melting from the middle. Pools of water are forming atop the ice sheet in the warmer months and then draining out to sea.
Scientists have now discovered the same thing is happening in Antarctica. Two new studies published in the journal Nature catalogue the melting and explain what it could mean for sea-level rise.
In the first study, researchers examined decades of photos from satellites and military aircraft. They documented hundreds of meltwater channels around the perimeter of the continent. They traced some streams deep into Antarctica’s frozen interior and discovered ponds of meltwater more than 4,000 feet above sea level, where no one expected to find liquid H2O.
In some places, the terrain had contributed to the melting. Blue ice and dark mountains absorb more sunlight than the white snow. These features gathered the extra heat needed to thaw Antarctic ice.
When ice shelves disintegrate, glaciers move out to sea.