According to a new research, based largely on information from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 and ESA’s CryoSat satellite missions, has revealed alarming findings about the state of Antarctica’s ice shelves.
s explained, 40% of these floating shelves have significantly reduced in volume over the past quarter-century. While this underscores the accelerating impacts of climate change on the world’s southernmost continent, the picture of ice deterioration is mixed.
The study, funded by ESA’s Earth Observation Science for Society programme and now published in the journal Science Advances, is based on 100,000 satellite radar images to produce a major assessment of the ‘state of the health’ of Antarctica’s ice shelves.
As informed, these massive floating extensions of the continent’s ice sheet play a crucial role in stabilising the region’s glaciers by acting as buttresses, slowing the flow of ice into the ocean.
The research team, led by scientists from the University of Leeds, found that 71 of the 162 ice shelves around Antarctica have reduced in volume, releasing almost 67 trillion tonnes of meltwater into the ocean. Apart from the issue of the ice shelves losing mass, this addition of freshwater into the ocean could have implications for ocean circulation patterns.
Moreover, the research team found that almost all the ice shelves on the western side of Antarctica experienced ice loss. In contrast, most of the ice shelves on the eastern side remained intact or increased in mass.
There is a mixed picture of ice-shelf deterioration, and this is to do with the ocean temperature and ocean currents around Antarctica.
..said Benjamin Davison, a research fellow at the University of Leeds.
As a result, the Getz Ice Shelf experienced some of the biggest ice losses, where 1.9 trillion tonnes of ice were lost over the 25-year study period. Just 5% of this was caused by calving, where large chunks of ice breakaway from the shelf and fall into the ocean. The rest was due to melting at the base of the ice shelf.
Similarly, the Pine Island Ice Shelf lost 1.3 trillion tonnes of ice. Around a third of this loss – 450 billion tonnes – was due to calving. The rest was because of melting from the underside of the ice shelf.