Jul 14, 2016

Scientists think they’ve just pinpointed the key driver of ice loss in Antarctica

Antarctica
by
Chelsea Harvey
,
Washington Post
An edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Photo: Jim Yungel/ NASA
An edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Photo: Jim Yungel/ NASA

The Antarctic Peninsula is headed for trouble — that much scientists know. Glaciers on the peninsula, which extends from the increasingly unstable West Antarctic region, have been retreating for decades, and some in the region have undergone particularly accelerated melting since the 1990s.  

Until recently, many scientists assumed that a steady increase in air temperature around the peninsula, the product of global warming, was the primary cause behind most of the ice loss. But new research looking at the western side of the peninsula suggests that this may not be the case after all. A study published Thursday in the journal Science suggests that warm ocean water may be the biggest driver of glacial retreat in that region — and it’s a problem that may not be getting enough attention[1]