Upside-down rivers of the warm ocean water are attacking the sides of Antarctic ice shelves from below, creating conditions ripe for break-ups and sea-level rise, based on scientists.
Research published Thursday in Science Advances examines this process, which might affect the continent’s future.
Ice shelves float out on the ocean on the edges of land-based ice sheets, based on scientists, and these extensions of the layer surround about 75 % of the Antarctic continent.
The shelves can be hemmed in by bumps and walls on the ocean floor. When restrained, the ice shelves slow down the stream of ice from the interior of the continent towards the ocean.
However, if an ice shelf retreats or breaks apart, ice on land flows much more quickly into the ocean, rising rates of sea-level rise.
“Warm water circulation is attacking the undersides of these ice shelves at their most vulnerable points,” mentioned Karen Alley, a visiting assistant professor of Earth Sciences on the College of Wooster in Ohio, in a statement. “These effects matter,” she stated. “However, exactly how much, we do not know.”