Ice area the size of Texas melts in Antarctica
19 June 2017 | Adaptation
As the climate has been changing, Antarctica has started to see some strange and out of the ordinary events take place in the typically cold, icy and snowy environment. Moss growth, cracking ice shelves and mysterious blood-colored waterfalls are just a few of the oddities in Antarctica, and now a report shows a massive ice melt, measuring 300,000 square miles — an area bigger than Texas — and unprecedented rainfall.
The findings were published in Nature Communications. The research is based on findings collected during the Antarctic summer of 2016, so January for those in the Northern Hemisphere, after researchers noticed heightened levels of moisture in the air. This was measured by a monitoring station in West Antarctica that was able to detect the increases and reported them to researchers who were looking for physical changes, the Washington Post reported.
Upon learning of these increased measurements, several researchers across a number of institutions began monitoring. A team at Ohio State University then examined satellite data along with the data from the monitoring stations to see what the results of the warming had been. This showed there had been a large melt event in the area that lasted 15 days.
All of this occurred on a part of West Antarctica that included the Ross Ice Shelf. The researchers suspect the warming occurred in part due to the strong El Niño event that happened during that time. This was the last time we saw an El Niño, or warmer than average temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, and it was one of the strongest ever recorded.
Other melts like this one have happened in times when there was a strong El Niño season. This time the water just froze again, but in the future, as the climate warms, that may become more difficult for ice, even in the Antarctic. The melt didn’t cause any problems in the area for the time being, but should such events become more common, they may begin to change the layout of Antarctica. Additionally, the amount of ice melting is contributing to sea level rise, which further speeds up melt and can have substantial consequences for the rest of the world.
While these findings coincide with the increase in weather anomalies that are occurring due to climate change, the researchers noted in their paper more research was still necessary. That is, if researchers want to try to predict future melt events in this same area of the world. What is necessary for further research is the capability of climate models to predict accurately the factors that contribute to such melts. Something they struggle with currently, the study said.
Source: International Business Times