Via Nature News & Comment: 'Stable' region of Antarctica is melting. Excerpt and then a remark:
New data reveal that glaciers along the southern Antarctic Peninsula suddenly surged towards the sea five years ago. The findings, published in the 22 May Science, add to evidence that the ice blanketing West Antarctica is much less stable than previously thought.
A radar instrument aboard the European Space Agency's Cryosat-2 satellite, launched in 2010, captured the dramatic changes in the topography and elevation of the southern Antarctic peninsula. Researchers confirmed the loss using measurements from NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) probes, which capture ice-mass loss, but not ice movement.
“There was nothing happening, and then, all of a sudden in the last five years, all of these glaciers started to send ice into the ocean,” says Bert Wouters, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol, UK, and an author of the study.
In many areas, the edges of the vast West Antarctic Ice Sheet extend into the ocean — making the ice susceptible to melting by warm currents. Studies published last year suggest that the ice sheet has begun to collapse because of melting from below. But until now, there has been little direct evidence that this process was under way along the southern half of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The latest findings are consistent with earlier work by researchers at Princeton University in New Jersey, who documented accelerated melting in West Antarctica using GRACE data. That paper, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters in February, estimated that the rate of ice loss across West Antarctica has doubled in the past six years.
“What is surprising is the timescale over which these changes are occurring,” says Christopher Harig, the geophysicist who led the Princeton study. “For this to occur in just a few years is kind of alarming.”
Over 40 years ago, I learned of a theory that ice ages result from recurring collapses of the West Antarctic ice sheet. I promptly did a lot of research and wrote Icequake, a novel that appeared in 1979. It's still available, though no one seems to have bought a copy in a couple of years.