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Study shows Antarctic glaciers are melting faster than expected

A new model developed by researchers at Caltech and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) shows that Antarctica’s glaciers may be melting 20-40% faster than expected. A study published in the journal Science Advances Aug. 12 identifies an ocean current along the coast of Antarctica that can trap warmer ocean waters at the base of glaciers, causing them to warm and melt.

The study was conducted in the laboratory of Andrew Thompson, professor of environmental science and engineering at the California Institute. “If this mechanism that we are studying is active in the real world, it could mean that glaciers are melting 20-40% faster than current global climate models predict, which usually cannot simulate these strong currents near the coast. Antarctica”Thompson commented.

Glaciers are melting from below

During the study, the researchers focused their attention on one area of ​​the frozen continent: the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). The location was chosen because the continent is disk-shaped, with the exception of regions like this one, where ice masses form a protrusion from the central body. It is in these places that it is easier to observe the scale of climate change. Scientists have used autonomous vehicles to measure salinity levels in water and ice, and explore the Antarctic Coastal Current, which runs counterclockwise across the continent. Modern climate models make it difficult to study the effect of the current, as it is considered to be very narrow and small.

The current model illustrates how fresh water melting from the WAP Glacier is carried by coastal currents and moved across the continent. Because of its low density, it moves quickly near the surface and holds warmer salt water on the underside of glaciers. Thus, glaciers are melting from below at an accelerated rate that is harder to predict.

“Existing climate models do not include this coastal current because it is narrow, only 20 km wide. Most models can only collect information on currents that are longer than 100 km or even wider. Models do not accurately measure melting rates.”commented researcher Mar Flexas, an environmental scientist and engineer at the California Institute.

Source: Science, Caltech, NASA.

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Source: Mundo Conectado

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