Scientists have discovered something positively frightening on one ice shelf, something they didn't even realize was there.
Scientists have just stumbled upon a major discovery in Antarctica, and an incredibly alarming one at that. Researchers at Columbia University’s Earth Institute have found that melting is occurring at a much faster pace than had previously been thought, and it’s only likely to increase.
The findings, which were published in the journal Nature, stated that there was an extensive amount of meltwater drainage that was flowing in parts of Antarctica where they didn’t expect it. The Earth Institute also provided video showing a 400 foot wide waterfall as a river of water cascaded down the Nansen ice shelf and into the ocean.
The Nansen ice shelf is a huge glacier that is 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, and the discovery indicates that the problem is not in the future, but very much in the present. And with temperatures continuing to rise, it’s likely to only get worse.
“In the first such continent-wide survey, scientists have found extensive drainages of meltwater flowing over parts of Antarctica’s ice during the brief summer,” the statement reads. “Researchers already knew such features existed, but assumed they were confined mainly to Antarctica’s fastest-warming, most northerly reaches. Many of the newly mapped drainages are not new, but the fact they exist at all is significant; they appear to proliferate with small upswings in temperature, so warming projected for this century could quickly magnify their influence on sea level.”
“This is not in the future–this is widespread now, and has been for decades,” said lead author Jonathan Kingslake, a glaciologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “I think most polar scientists have considered water moving across the surface of Antarctica to be extremely rare. But we found a lot of it, over very large areas.”
However, the data was too sparse in locations to determine if the number of drainages have been increasing over the last seven decades.
“We have no reason to think they have,” said Kingslake. “But without further work, we can’t tell. Now, looking forward, it will be really important to work out how these systems will change in response to warming, and how this will affect the ice sheets.”