Antarctica’s glaciers are melting at their fastest rate in 5,500 years •

Antarctica is dominated by ice, primarily two massive ice sheets called the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets. Unsurprisingly, these ice sheets have been losing mass in recent years. Two glaciers within these ice caps – the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers – are particularly at risk. Scientists estimate that at current melting rates, the ice sheets will add up to 3.4 meters to sea level rise over the coming centuries.

Now, new research from the University of Maine and the British Antarctic Survey has measured rates of sea level change around Antarctica. The research shows something disturbing. Glaciers have retreated at a rate not seen in 5,500 years. The Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers lost 192,000 square kilometers and 162,300 square kilometers respectively. These glaciers alone could contribute significantly to global sea level rise.

“We reveal that although these vulnerable glaciers have been relatively stable over the past millennia, their current rate of retreat is accelerating and is already raising global sea levels,” said study co-author Dr. Dr Dylan Rood, expert in the Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering at Imperial College London.

“These currently high rates of ice melt may signal that these vital arteries in the heart of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have been ruptured, resulting in an acceleration of ocean flow that is potentially disastrous for the future global level of ice. sea ​​in a warming world Is it too late to stop the bleeding?

In the mid-Holocene, more than 5,000 years ago, Earth’s climate was much warmer than it is today. Due to the warmer climate, scientists wanted to observe sea levels to compare it to what our future might be like. To observe the sea level, the researchers studied shells and penguin bones, indicators of sea level. Thanks to carbon dating, they were able to locate these remains in time.

Interestingly, sea levels in Antarctica appeared to be lower during the warmest period while being higher globally. This is because the weight of glacial ice pushes the land down, causing it to sink lower in the water and rise higher as the ice melts, relieving the pressure.

Overall, the researchers could see a drop in sea level for Antarctica with melting glaciers, but a rise in sea level almost everywhere else. To better understand the phenomenon and hopefully find possible solutions, scientists plan to conduct more research.

The study is published in the journal nature geoscience.

By Zach Fitzner, Personal editor

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