High Melt Rates On Ross Ice Shelf

By on February 2, 2016

Whillans Ice Stream field camp on Antarctica. (Credit: Matt Siegfried / Scripps Oceanography)

Studying along Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, scientists have found that the melt rate of the ice shelf is much higher than expected, according to a release from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The rate is about 25 times higher than previously thought.

Making the determination relied on six weeks of radar data collection that dissected ongoing changes to the ice shelf’s thickness. This allowed researchers to chart the melt rate and the shelf’s changes within less than a mile.

Scientists found that the highest melt rates were located near the start of developing ice channels. That find strengthens the idea that freshwater from the shelf’s subglacial drainage system is mostly responsible for changes in the ice shelf’s features.

The high melt rates that the researchers discovered are normal, they say, adding that the flux is one of the things that helps to keep Antarctica’s ice sheets in balance.

Top image: Whillans Ice Stream field camp on Antarctica. (Credit: Matt Siegfried / Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

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