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History of Antarctic Melt

History of Antarctic Melt 11 August 2020

Climate change: Satellites record history of Antarctic melting (via BBC)

By Jonathan Amos

Twenty-five years of satellite observations have been used to reconstruct a detailed history of Antarctica's ice shelves.

These ice platforms are the floating protrusions of glaciers flowing off the land, and ring the entire continent.

The European Space Agency data-set confirms the shelves' melting trend.

As a whole, they've shed close to 4,000 gigatons since 1994 - an amount of meltwater that could all but fill America's Grand Canyon.

But the innovation here is not so much the fact that the shelves are losing mass - we already knew that; relatively warm ocean water is eating their undersides. Rather, it's the finessed statements that can now be made about exactly where and when the wastage has been occurring, and where also the meltwater has been going.

Some of this cold, fresh water has been entering the deep sea around Antarctica where it is undoubtedly influencing ocean circulation. And this could have implications for the climate far beyond the polar south.

"For example, there've been a couple of studies that showed that including the effect of Antarctic ice melt into models slows global ocean temperature rise, and that can actually lead to an increase in precipitation in the US," explained Susheel Adusumilli from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

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