Antarctica, South Pole (BBN)-Warm ocean water is melting one of the world’s biggest glaciers from below, potentially leading to a rise in sea levels, Australian scientists have discovered.
Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis recently returned to Hobart from Antarctica, with a team of 23 scientists who had used new technology to collect the first water samples near the Totten Glacier, reports ABC News.
At 538,000 square kilometres, Totten is twice the size of Victoria and holds enough water to raise sea levels by six metres.
Steve Rintoul from the Australian Climate and Environment Cooperative Research Centre said the results indicated the glacier was being melted by the sea water beneath it.
“The measurements we collected provide the first evidence that warm water reaches the glacier and may be driving that melt of the glacier from below,” he said.
The fact that it’s changing is something new, we used to think that the glaciers in east Antarctic were very stable and unlikely to change.
Steve Rintoul, Antarctic Climate and Environment research centreThe glacier holds enough water to raise the sea level by six metres and scientists said it had been thinning over the past 15 years.
“We used to think the glaciers in east Antarctica were unlikely to be affected by the ocean because they were a long way away from the warm ocean waters,” he said.
“The fact that it’s changing is something new, we used to think that the glaciers in east Antarctic were very stable and unlikely to change.”
But he said it was too soon to tell if the glacier was melting as a result of a changing global climate.
“What our observations can’t tell us is how things have changed over time, because this is the first time anyone has made measurements in this area,” he said.
“The measurements we’ve collected here are crucial for setting a benchmark that can be used to assess future change.”
AURORA AUSTRALIS WENT WHERE NO VESSEL HAD GONE BEFORE
Tony Worby, also from the research centre, said the study was groundbreaking.
“No ship has ever been where the Aurora Australis went on this voyage, the ship managed to get front of the Totten Glacier,” he said.
“Over the next year or two we’ll process all of that data and get a really great sense of how warmer ocean water is affecting the glacier.”
The results from this expedition will be used as the benchmark for next year’s trip.
BBN/SK/AKG-26 Jan15-04:40pm (BST)