Research reveals ice sheet stability in West Antarctica under threat

May 10, 2012

(Phys.org) -- An international team of researchers has warned that the stability of a part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is potentially under threat following a survey of the Institute and Möller ice streams.

The team, which included Dr David Rippin, from the University of York’s Environment Department, surveyed the thickness of the ice streams which feed the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf to determine the underlying landscape.

Details of the research, which received support from the UK Natural Environment Research Council, are published in Nature Geoscience this week.

The research, which was led by the University of Edinburgh, involved carrying out an airborne geographical survey across a previously poorly understood region of West Antarctica – the Weddell Sea Embayment.

Until now, attention has been focussed on changes in the Siple Coast and the Amundsen Sea embayment sectors of West Antarctica.  Little attention has previously been given to this third sector. However, the team’s work revealed a steep reverse slope and a large subglacial basin here (around the size of Wales) upstream of where the meets the Weddell Sea. This is significant because such a reverse slope facilitates accelerating ice-sheet decay as the grounding line retreats across a deepening bed. 

Dr Rippin played a significant role in processing and analysing the data. He said: “The reverse slope here is particularly steep and our measurements showed that the bed is fairly smooth, with little in the way of ‘pinning points’ that could delay retreat of the ice sheet. Taken together with projected increasing melt rates, this raises concerns about the future of the Weddell Sector of the West .” 

Explore further: Aging Africa

More information: The article “Steep reverse bed slope at the grounding line of the Weddell Sea sector in West Antarctica” is published in Nature Geoscience at dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1468

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New structure found deep within West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Sep 23, 2004

Ice sheet more susceptible to change than previously thought Scientists have found a remarkable new structure deep within the West Antarctic Ice Sheet which suggests that the whole ice sheet is more susceptible to future ch ...

Search for ice sheet 'tipping point'

Jan 13, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study examines how ice sheets, such as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, could become unstable as the world warms.

Recommended for you

Aging Africa

8 hours ago

In the September issue of GSA Today, Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont–Burlington and colleagues present a cosmogenic view of erosion, relief generation, and the age of faulting in southernmost Africa ...

NASA animation shows Hurricane Marie winding down

9 hours ago

NOAA's GOES-West satellite keeps a continuous eye on the Eastern Pacific and has been covering Hurricane Marie since birth. NASA's GOES Project uses NOAA data and creates animations and did so to show the end of Hurricane ...

EU project sails off to study Arctic sea ice

14 hours ago

A one-of-a-kind scientific expedition is currently heading to the Arctic, aboard the South Korean icebreaker Araon. This joint initiative of the US and Korea will measure atmospheric, sea ice and ocean properties with technology ...

User comments : 0