East Antarctica’s largest glacier melting - scientists

2015-01-26 19:28


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sydney - The largest glacier in East Antarctica, containing ice equivalent to a 6m rise in global sea levels, is melting due to warm ocean water, Australian scientists said on Monday.

The 120km-long Totten Glacier, which is more than 30km wide, had been thought to be in an area untouched by warmer currents.

But a just-returned voyage to the frozen region found the waters around the glacier were warmer than expected and likely melting the ice from below.

"We knew that the glacier was thinning from the satellite data, and we didn't know why," the voyage's chief scientist Steve Rintoul told AFP.

He said that up until recently the East Antarctica ice sheet had been thought surrounded by cold waters and therefore very stable and unlikely to change much.

But the voyage found that waters around the glacier were some 1.5°C warmer than other areas visited on the same trip during the southern hemisphere summer.

"We made it to the front of the glacier and we measured temperatures that were warm enough to drive significant melt," Rintoul said.

"So the fact that warm water can reach this glacier is a sign that East Antarctica is potentially more vulnerable to changes in the ocean driven by climate change than we used to think."

Unsuccessful expeditions

Previous expeditions had been unable to get close to the glacier due to heavy ice, but Rintoul said the weather had held for the Aurora Australis icebreaker and a team of scientists and technicians from the Australian Antarctic Division and other bodies.

Rintoul said the glacier was not about to melt entirely overnight and cause a 6m rise in sea levels, but the research was important as scientists try to predict how changes in ocean temperatures will impact on ice sheets.

"This study is a step towards better understanding of exactly which parts of the ice sheets are vulnerable to ocean warming and that is the sort of information that we can then use to improve our predictions of future sea level rises," he said.

"East Antarctica is not as protected from change as we use to think," he said.

The melt rate of glaciers in the fastest-melting part of Antarctica has tripled over the past decade, analysis of the past 21 years showed, according to research published last month.

Read more on:    antarctica  |  australia  |  climate change  |  global warming

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.