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Surprising Science

Another Reminder That Antarctica’s Warming Up Too

While much of the news about ice melts has come from the Arctic, a study published this week describes interior "ice streams" and their effect on the integrity of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at the University of New South Wales revealed that the flow of Antarctica’s ice streams, which is already faster than that of the ice surrounding them, could speed up much more quickly in coming years, leading to thinning in the interior ice sheet and a corresponding rise in sea levels worldwide. The findings were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What’s the Big Idea?

Ice streams, which exist on the edge of the continent, act as arteries that drain the interior. In their study, the scientists factored in rising ocean temperatures as they analyzed simulations of the ice streams’ flow. “Ocean warming set off relatively localized acceleration of the ice streams, but sparked far more widespread thinning over the rest of Antarctica” with some glaciers responding more quickly than others. Combined with other recent research showing the effects of warming on the underbelly of the ice sheet, “such dynamic shifts…could have global consequences” as the extent of the continent’s influence on sea levels is more clearly revealed.

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