The Sheldon Glacier with Mount Barre in the background, is seen from Ryder Bay near Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island (Photo : Reuters)
With the climate change debate reaching a crescendo in recent months, researchers have discovered that Western Antarctica is warming rapidly, doubling past predictions of temperature increases. While the report, which was published in the journal Natural Science, did not focus on the cause of the ice sheet melting, study co-author Andrew Monaghan suggests that manmade CO2 emissions lie at the root of the problem.
"This place has very variable weather - some of it is influenced by human acts and some of it isn't. I think it's premature to answer that question right now," says Monaghan. "The fact that temperatures are rising in the summer means there's a prospect of [the] Western Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) not only being melted from the bottom as we know it today, but in the future it looks probable that it will be melting from the top as well."
The fear is that the region's vast ice sheets will melt during the summer season, feeding more and more water into an already rising ocean. Ohio State University meteorologist David Bromwich adds, "The magnitude of the increase is substantial. One of the most surprising aspects of this warming [increase] is how much is going on in the summer, that's the time we would get any melting."
Monaghan explains, "We're seeing a more dynamic impact that's due to climate change that's occurring elsewhere on the globe translating down and increasing the heat transportation tot he WAIS."