This year’s Antarctic ice melt is the continent’s worst in 1,000 years, according to a new study by a research team from the Australian National University and the British Antarctic Survey.
The teams drilled a 1,194-foot-long ice core from James Ross Island in the Antarctic’s north to measure past temperatures on the world’s coldest continent.
The scientists measured the thickness of the core’s visible layers, which indicated periods of summer snow on the icecap that thawed and refroze. The layers’ thickness helped the scientists compare how the history of melting compared to changes in temperature at the ice core’s site over the past 1,000 years.
It is acknowledged that temperatures across the Antarctic Peninsula have risen dramatically. But what scientists discovered was that ten times more ice melts in the summer months on the peninsula now than it did 600 years ago. There has been a temperature increase of 2.8 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years.
The numbers make the region the most rapidly warming area in the Southern Hemisphere. The increase is more than five times that of the global average. And while the region’s temperatures climb, around 25 kilometers of ice has been lost from ten floating ice shelves on the peninsula. It takes a long time to replace this ice.
Antarctica’s climate is incredibly complex. While there is record ice loss in one region, there also appears to be an increase in sea ice in the surrounding waters. Satellite images from seven months ago showed a record amount of ice floating around the continent. The increase in sea ice may be the result of the record melting ice on the continent. Instead of mixing with the sea, the ice runoff forms a separate, colder layer on the ocean’s surface. This helps protect sea ice from coming into contact with the warmer seas below.
But despite its complexities, scientists still believe that the continent’s ice loss will continue to rise, along with its temperatures. The research was published in the journal Nature Geoscience and is just the second reconstruction of past ice melt done on the Antarctic continent.
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