‘The big question is whether the ice sheet will react to these changing ocean conditions as rapidly as it did 14,000 years ago’
FRISCO — A stratification of the ocean around Antarctica could lead to more rapid melting of ice sheets, triggering a sudden surge in sea level rise. That last time that happened was well before the global warming era, about 14,000 years ago, but scientists are now seeing signs of a similar pattern.
A new study found that in the past, when ocean temperatures around Antarctica became more layered, with a warm layer of water below a cold surface layer, ice sheets and glaciers melted much faster than when the cool and warm layers mixed more easily. This defined layering of temperatures is exactly what is happening now around the Antarctic.
“The reason for the layering is that global warming in parts of Antarctica is causing land-based ice to melt, adding massive amounts of freshwater to the ocean surface,” said ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science researcher Prof Matthew England, an author of the paper, published in Nature Communications.