Ocean-driven melting of floating ice-shelves in the Amundsen Sea in the Antarctic is currently the main process controlling Antarctica's contribution to sea-level rise according to a new study.
The new research Unavoidable future increase in West Antarctic iceshelf melting over the twenty-first century published in a recent issue of scientific journal Nature.com, using a regional ocean model, presents a comprehensive suite of future projections of iceshelf melting in the Amundsen Sea.
The researchers reveal that rapid ocean warming, at triple the historical rate, is likely committed over the twenty-first century, with widespread increases in ice-shelf melting, including in regions crucial for ice-sheet stability.
When internal climate variability is considered, there is no significant difference between mid-range emissions scenarios and the most ambitious targets of the Paris Agreement. The study results suggest that mitigation of greenhouse gases now has limited power to prevent ocean warming that could lead to the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet.
The west Antarctic ice sheet holds 3.2m cubic kilometers of ice on land. Yet the area is the fastest melting part of the Antarctic, making it the continent’s largest contributor to sea level rise.
The study shows that hotter oceans are causing the ice shelves around West Antarctica to destabilize, raising the spectre of massive sea level rise.
British Antarctic Survey Cambridge faculty and lead author of the study Kaitlin A. Naughten said scientists are still refining estimates on how fast the ice shelves will melt and how that in turn will impact ice on land.
Dr Naughten said, “It’s hard to know exactly how quickly it will respond, but we expect that the bulk of the ice sheet’s response will take a few centuries. It doesn’t respond instantly.”