Warmer ocean rapidly melting Antarctic glacier

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, September 15, 2013, 10:29 AM -

NASA has confirmed that warmer ocean waters have sped up the ice melt beneath one of Antarctica's more remote glaciers.

And it wasn't easy. NASA tried several times to set up a research station on the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, but were thwarted by logistical challenges, and terrible weather.

They finally managed in December 2012, and their work has yielded the first results, and it doesn't look good for the ice shelf.

While there are differences in ice melt, some sites were seeing an ice melt as high was six centimetres per day, or 22 metres per year, mid-way down the glacier.

"This is the first observation of the actual melt rate underneath the ice shelf," said Timothy Stanton, an oceanographer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, who is the lead author of the paper based on the results, that was published in Nature last week.

The researchers reached the underside of the ice by using a hot-water to drill down 450 metres, then lowered several instruments down to below the glacier.

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