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Thursday, May 10, 2012

CAN YOU FEEL THE HEAT? Another Antarctic ice shelf under threat

450,000SqKm Shelf May Disappear By The End Of This Century Due To Warming

London: Scientists are predicting the disappearance of another vast ice shelf in Antarctica by the end of the century that will accelerate rising sea levels. 
    The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea on the eastern side of Antarctica has so far not seen ice loss from global warming and much of the observation of melting has focused on the western side of the continent around the Amundsen Sea. But new research from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany says the 450,000-sq-km ice shelf is under threat. 
    "According to our calculations, this protective barrier will disintegrate by the end of this century," said Dr Harmut Hellmer, lead author of the study. 
    The huge ice shelves that float on the seas fringing Antarctica provide a buffer against warming waters eating away at the base of the much larger glaciers behind them that sit on the land. 
    "Ice shelves are like corks in the bottles for the ice streams behind them," said Hellmer. "They reduce the ice flow." 
    Hellmer and his team predict the melting of the Filchner-Ronne shelf could add up to 4.4mm per year to rising global sea levels. According to the latest estimates based on remote sensing data, global sea levels rose 1.5mm a year between 2003 and 2010 due to melting glaciers and ice shelves, the scientists say. 
    The research was funded by the EU's 'Ice2sea' programme, set up in the wake of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that highlighted ice-sheets as the most significant remaining uncertainty in projections of rising sea levels. David Vaughan, who heads Ice2sea, said the findings prove that warming oceans are having the greatest impact on the ice sheets, as opposed to atmospheric changes. REUTERS


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