Climate Change

World’s largest ice shelf melting rapidly due to solar heating of ocean surface

If this situation continues, sea levels would rise up to 60 metres by 2050 and the ocean would engulf coastal cities across the globe

Published: Tuesday 30 April 2019

Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, the world's largest ice shelf roughly the size of France, is melting rapidly. The melting ice shelf has led to global sea-level rise of around 13.8 millimetres over the last 40 years. 

An international team of scientists has found out that this ice shelf is melting 10 times faster than the overall average, due to solar heating of the surrounding ocean surface. 

The latest study found that solar heating of the surrounding ocean surface spurred the rate at which the ice is melting. The team collected data over four years from an advanced oceanographic instrument installed under the ice shelf.  

Using instruments deployed through a 260 metre-deep borehole, the team measured temperature, salinity, melt rates and ocean currents in the cavity under the ice. 

The team also used an extremely precise custom-made radar system to survey the changing thickness of the ice shelf.  

Earlier, scientists believed that heat radiating to the bottom melted the underside of the shelf, while the ocean surface cooled down quickly. However, the latest findings show that heat in the ocean surface plays a crucial role. 

Scientists suggest that climate change will only further the rate at which ice melts in the future. 

Antarctica comprises 90 per cent of the world’s ice. So what happens to its ice and snow is a matter of serious concern, and if this situation continues, sea-levels would rise up to 60 metres by 2050 — and the ocean would engulf coastal cities across the globe. 

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