The floating ice shelves along the edges of West Antarctica that slow the flow of its vast glaciers are under assault from all directions, and they’re becoming more vulnerable to collapse, scientists warn.
Warmer water has started creeping in under them, eating away at the ice from below. Warmer air—and, in places, more rain—is melting the surface, creating ponds that can drain deep down and then splinter ice from within.
Now, new research is highlighting another threat: Since 2000, moist and warm tendrils of air known as atmospheric rivers have been swirling toward the coast more frequently, bringing more rain and surface melting.
Antarctica has been losing about 250 billion tons of ice annually in recent years, and research shows the rate has increased sixfold since 1979. At this pace, researchers have suggested, West Antarctica’s ice shelves may reach climate tipping points and crumble, sending sea level rise surging well beyond current projections. [Continue reading…]