Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New insight into accelerating summer ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula

Date:
April 14, 2013
Source:
British Antarctic Survey
Summary:
A new 1,000-year Antarctic Peninsula climate reconstruction shows that summer ice melting has intensified almost 10-fold, and mostly since the mid-20th century. Summer ice melt affects the stability of Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers.

Ice core camp.
Credit: Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey

A new 1,000-year Antarctic Peninsula climate reconstruction shows that summer ice melting has intensified almost ten-fold, and mostly since the mid-20th century. Summer ice melt affects the stability of Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers.

Ice core camp

The research, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, adds new knowledge to the international effort that is required to understand the causes of environmental change in Antarctica and to make more accurate projections about the direct and indirect contribution of Antarctica's ice shelves and glaciers to global sea level rise.

In 2008, a UK-French science team drilled a 364-metre long ice core from James Ross Island, near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, to measure past temperatures in the area. They discovered that this ice core could also give a unique and unexpected insight into ice melt in the region.

Visible layers in the ice core indicated periods when summer snow on the ice cap thawed and then refroze. By measuring the thickness of these melt layers the scientists were able to examine how the history of melting compared with changes in temperature at the ice core site over the last 1,000 years.

Lead author Dr Nerilie Abram of The Australian National University and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) says, "We found that the coolest conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula and the lowest amount of summer melt occurred around 600 years ago. At that time temperatures were around 1.6°C lower than those recorded in the late 20th Century and the amount of annual snowfall that melted and refroze was about 0.5%. Today, we see almost ten times as much (5%) of the annual snowfall melting each year.

"Summer melting at the ice core site today is now at a level that is higher than at any other time over the last 1000 years. And whilst temperatures at this site increased gradually in phases over many hundreds of years, most of the intensification of melting has happened since the mid-20th century."

This is the first time it has been demonstrated that levels of ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula have been particularly sensitive to increasing temperature during the 20th century.

Dr Abram explains, "What that means is that the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed to a level where even small increases in temperature can now lead to a big increase in summer ice melt."

Dr Robert Mulvaney from the British Antarctic Survey led the ice core drilling expedition and co-authored the paper. He says, "Having a record of previous melt intensity for the Peninsula is particularly important because of the glacier retreat and ice shelf loss we are now seeing in the area. Summer ice melt is a key process that is thought to have weakened ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula leading to a succession of dramatic collapses, as well as speeding up glacier ice loss across the region over the last 50 years."

In other parts of Antarctica, such as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the picture is more complex and it is not yet clear that the levels of recent ice melt and glacier loss are exceptional or caused by human-driven climate changes.

Dr Abram concludes, "This new ice core record shows that even small changes in temperature can result in large increases in the amount of melting in places where summer temperatures are near to 0°C, such as along the Antarctic Peninsula, and this has important implications for ice instability and sea level rise in a warming climate."

This research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. Dr Abram is an Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellow.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Antarctic Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nerilie J. Abram, Robert Mulvaney, Eric W. Wolff, Jack Triest, Sepp Kipfstuhl, Luke D. Trusel, Françoise Vimeux, Louise Fleet, Carol Arrowsmith. Acceleration of snow melt in an Antarctic Peninsula ice core during the twentieth century. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1787

Cite This Page:

British Antarctic Survey. "New insight into accelerating summer ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130414193437.htm>.
British Antarctic Survey. (2013, April 14). New insight into accelerating summer ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130414193437.htm
British Antarctic Survey. "New insight into accelerating summer ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130414193437.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins