Upside-down rivers of warm water melt the Antarctic ice from underneath, a new study published in Science Advances revealed. The scientists unveiled that they have been aware of the existence of these basal channels for several years now. However, until now, the geologists had no clues about how these rivers form.
Thanks to this new study, the scientist learned more about the upside-down rivers beneath the Antarctic ice shelves. The geologists now suggest sea-level rise models also to consider those rivers.
“Warm water circulation is attacking the undersides of these ice shelves at their most vulnerable points — these effects matter. But exactly how much, we don’t yet know. We need to,” explained glaciologist Karen Alley from the College of Wooster in Ohio.
Ice shelves make continental ice sheets. The Antarctic ice shelves represent about three-quarters of the continent. In 2016, Karen Alley and her colleagues analyzed satellite imagery of West Antarctic ice shelves and observed the presence of Upside-down rivers of warm water.
Rivers Of Warm Water Melt The Antarctic Ice From Underneath
“Our observations show that basal channels are associated with the development of new zones of crevassing, suggesting that these channels may cause ice fracture,” said the scientists in their study in 2016.
“We conclude that basal channels can form and grow quickly as a result of warm ocean water intrusion and that they can structurally weaken ice shelves, potentially leading to rapid ice shelf loss in some areas,” they added.
In their new study conducted this year, the scientists found out that rivers of warm water melt the Antarctic ice from underneath, and that they form along the edges of fast-flowing ice stretches in Antarctica.
“We see a new process, where warm water cuts into the shelf from below. Like scoring a plate of glass, the trough renders the shelf weak, and in a few decades, it’s gone, freeing the ice sheet to ride out faster into the ocean,” Ted Scambos from the University of Colorado Boulder, and a co-author of the new study.