Ocean warming primary cause of Antarctic Peninsula glacier retreat

July 14, 2016, British Antarctic Survey
Icebergs calved off from the glaciers in Marguerite Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: Alison Cook

A new study has found for the first time that ocean warming is the primary cause of retreat of glaciers on the western Antarctic Peninsula. The Peninsula is one of the largest current contributors to sea-level rise and this new finding will enable researchers to make better predictions of ice loss from this region.

The research, by scientists at Swansea University and British Antarctic Survey, is published in the journal Science today. The study reports that glaciers flowing to the coast on the western side of the Peninsula show a distinct spatial correlation with patterns, with those in the south retreating rapidly but those in the north showing little change. Some 90% of the 674 glaciers in this region have retreated since records began in the 1940s.

Dr Alison Cook, who led the work at Swansea University, says:

"Scientists know that is affecting large glaciers elsewhere on the continent, but thought that atmospheric temperatures were the primary cause of all glacier changes on the Peninsula. We now know that's not the case.

"The numerous glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula give a key insight as to how environmental factors control ice behaviour on a wide scale. Almost all glaciers on the western side end in the sea, and we've been able to monitor changes in their ice fronts using images as far back as the 1940s. Glaciers here are extremely diverse and yet the changes in their frontal positions showed a strong regional pattern.

"We were keen to understand what was causing the differences, in particular why the glaciers in the north-west showed less retreat than those further South and why there was acceleration in retreat since the 1990s. The ocean temperature records have revealed the crucial link."

The team studied ocean temperature measurements around the Peninsula stretching back several decades, alongside photography and satellite data of the 674 glaciers.

Ocean samples were collected by the RRS James Clark Ross around the Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: Mike Meredith

The north-south gradient of increasing glacier retreat was found to show a strong pattern with ocean temperatures, whereby water is cold in the north-west, and becomes progressively warmer at depths below 100m further south. Importantly, the warm water at mid-depths in the southerly region has been warming since as long ago as the 1990s, at the same time as the widespread acceleration in glacier retreat.

Co-author Professor Mike Meredith at British Antarctic Survey says:

"These new findings demonstrate for the first time that the ocean plays a major role in controlling the stability of glaciers on the western Antarctic Peninsula.

"Where mid-depth waters from the deep ocean intrude onto the continental shelf and spread towards the coast, they bring heat that causes the glaciers to break up and melt. These waters have become warmer and moved to shallower depths in recent decades, causing glacier retreat to accelerate."

Co-author Professor Tavi Murray, who leads the Glaciology Research Group at Swansea University, says:

"The glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula are changing rapidly - almost all of the Peninsula's glaciers have retreated since the 1940s. We have known the region is a climate warming hotspot for a while, but we couldn't explain what was causing the pattern of glacier change.

"This new study shows that a warmer is the key to understanding the behaviour of on the Antarctic Peninsula. Currently the Peninsula makes one of the largest contributions to sea-level rise, which means understanding this link will improve predications of ."

Explore further: Improved modelling of ice-ocean processes

More information: "Ocean forcing of glacier retreat in the western Antarctic Peninsula," Science, science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aae0017

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13 comments

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Shootist
1.5 / 5 (15) Jul 14, 2016
Huzzah! Huzzah!

Incoming Prime Minister Theresa May has driven a stake through the heart of her predecessor David Cameron's fluffy, faux-Conservative project by scrapping the Department of Energy And Climate Change (DECC)

Huzzah! Huzzah!
antigoracle
1.5 / 5 (15) Jul 14, 2016
thought that atmospheric temperatures were the primary cause of all glacier changes on the Peninsula. We now know that's not the case.

Isn't it funny how the AGW Cult's magical CO2 works. It's not warming the air but is somehow warming the ocean...no...wait...the only place in Antarctica the cult can find their globull warming is above know intense geothermal activity.
leetennant
4.7 / 5 (15) Jul 14, 2016
Huzzah! Huzzah!

Incoming Prime Minister Theresa May has driven a stake through the heart of her predecessor David Cameron's fluffy, faux-Conservative project by scrapping the Department of Energy And Climate Change (DECC)

Huzzah! Huzzah!


What a bizarre comment to put on an article about all the ways in which London is going to end up underwater.
Chris_Reeve
Jul 14, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Da Schneib
4.4 / 5 (14) Jul 14, 2016
It's not warming the air
The evidence says you're lying again.

Do you really have to go on every AGW thread and tell the same boring idiotic lies over and over and over again @boreacle?
Da Schneib
4.7 / 5 (12) Jul 14, 2016
@Chris_Reeve has managed to gargle peanut butter: combining the Eclectic Universe with AGW denial!

Granted it's kinda like combining shoe polish with electronic music, but hey, it's creative, right?
leetennant
4.6 / 5 (10) Jul 14, 2016
Everything is inherently unknowable.

Which is true but planes still fly, this computer still works and my jugs still boils my tea. Which makes the sentiment particularly meaningless.
rrrander
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2016
Whatever happened to the idea of hauling glacial ice to places like Africa and Arabia to use as freewater sources?
antigoracle
1 / 5 (7) Jul 15, 2016
It's not warming the air
The evidence says you're lying again.

Do you really have to go on every AGW thread and tell the same boring idiotic lies over and over and over again @boreacle?

Do you really have to go on every AGW thread and bray like the jackass you are. [rhetorical]
https://stevengod...growing/

http://earthobser...?id=6502
HeloMenelo
5 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2016
It's not warming the air
The evidence says you're lying again.

Do you really have to go on every AGW thread and tell the same boring idiotic lies over and over and over again @boreacle?

Do you really have to go on every AGW thread and bray like the jackass you are. [rhetorical]
https://stevengod...growing/


whos got 1 out of 5 ?that'd be You monkey goracle, you've been going to each an every climate change forum for the past decade releasing your brainfarts on the comments section, never missing the chance for a 1 out of 5 rating... :D ;)
HeloMenelo
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 15, 2016
Monkey posting the exact same thing on all the new climate chnge sections, that corn staring to pop popcorn in you're hed again ?
HeloMenelo
4 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2016
Huzzah! Huzzah!

Incoming Prime Minister Theresa May has driven a stake through the heart of her predecessor David Cameron's fluffy, faux-Conservative project by scrapping the Department of Energy And Climate Change (DECC)

Huzzah! Huzzah!

O and your sock aka yourself shooti the pottymiss, made a strange noise when those the pits got shaken up in your hollow skull... :D
Pumastar
5 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2016
Huzzah! Huzzah!

Incoming Prime Minister Theresa May has driven a stake through the heart of her predecessor David Cameron's fluffy, faux-Conservative project by scrapping the Department of Energy And Climate Change (DECC)

Huzzah! Huzzah!


What a bizarre comment to put on an article about all the ways in which London is going to end up underwater.


Like Helo said, you're talking to a bafoon, so expect anything brainless related from him.

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