Much Faster Ross Ice Shelf Melting than Assumed or Expected

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 01 May 2019



Science Expedition Adventure
Cambridge and NIWA scientists traverse 621 miles on the Ross Ice Shelf.
Cambridge and NIWA scientists traverse 621 miles on the Ross Ice Shelf. Credit to Cambridge & Poul Christoffersen.
Great Snowmobile Expedition! Credit to Cambridge & Poul Christoffersen.


Much Faster Ross Ice Shelf Melting than Assumed or Expected

Rapid melting of the World's Largest Ice Shelf Linked to Solar Heat in the Ocean,
University of Cambridge, April 29, 2019.


Ross Ice Shelf
"...part of the world's largest ice shelf is melting 10 times faster than the overall ice shelf average, due to solar heating of the surrounding ocean surface."

Ross Sea Polynya
"The melting is affected by a large area of open ocean in front of the ice shelf that is empty of sea ice due to strong offshore winds. This area, known as the Ross Sea Polynya, absorbs solar heat quickly in summer and this solar heat source is clearly influencing melting in the ice shelf cavity."

Ross Sea Polynya
The Ross Polynya where solar local heat is absorbed by the ocean. Poul Christoffersen, University of Cambridge.
The Ross Polynya where local solar heat is absorbed by the ocean. The vertical wall of the ice front stretches a distance of 373 miles. Poul Christoffersen, University of Cambridge.


"Data from the instruments deployed on the mooring showed that solar heated surface water flows into the cavity under the ice shelf near Ross Island, causing melt rates to nearly triple during the summer months."

"...findings suggest that conditions in the ice shelf cavity are more closely coupled with the surface ocean and atmosphere than previously assumed, implying that melt rates near the ice front will respond quickly to changes in the uppermost layer of the ocean."

"...the ice is melting much more rapidly than previously thought due to inflowing warm water."

"...melt rates in this region will increase in the future."

Local Solar Ocean Heating
" heated surface water also plays a crucial role in melting ice shelves...."

Why Important
"The Ross Ice Shelf stabilises the West Antarctic ice sheet by blocking the ice which flows into it from some of the world's largest glaciers."

Coolest Research
"...instruments deployed through a 260 metre-deep borehole, the team measured temperature, salinity, melt rates and ocean currents in the cavity under the ice."

" extremely precise custom-made radar system to survey the changing thickness of the ice shelf."

"Dr Stewart and Dr Christoffersen travelled more than 1000 km by snowmobile in order to measure ice thicknesses and map basal melt rates."

Unstable Future
"While the Ross Ice Shelf is considered to be releatively stable, the new findings show that it may be more vulnerable than thought so far. The point of vulnerability lies in the fact that that solar heated surface water flows into the cavity near a stabilising pinning point, which could be undermined if basal melting intensifies further."


Antarctic Ice

Jan 2019
Potential Confluence of Grand Orbital Cycles with Human Ignorance could End Antarctic Ice

Dec 2018
Research: Increasing Antarctic Snowing Replacing a Third of Increasing Ice Loss


June 2018
2018 Status of All Antarctic Ice: Ice Loss Triples




East Antarctic Ice

Jan 2019
Once Thought Invincible, East Antarctic Ice Now seen as Vulnerable



Antarctic Resources

Antarctic Map
Canada/British Antarctic Survey detailed map of Antarctica
Canada's BAS PDF Antarctic Map




Antarctic Ice Shelves
Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) showing location of key ice shelves.
Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) showing location of key ice shelves, credit to Antarctic Glaciers Organization.
Credit to Antarctic Glaciers Organization




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glaciers, climate change, Antarctica, Ross Ice Shelf, melting, ocean warming, Summer, speeding up, retreating, calving


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