From: British Antarctic Survey
Published July 5, 2017 03:21 PM

Study shows ice sheet loss over the last 11,000 years

Reporting this week (Wednesday 5 July) in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) explains that wind-driven incursions of warm water forced the retreat of glaciers in West Antarctica during the past 11,000 years. These new results enable researchers to better understand how environmental change may impact future sea-level rise from this climate-sensitive region.

By studying tiny shells in seafloor sediment cores retrieved from Pine Island Bay in West Antarctica, the team has reconstructed the interactions between the ice and ocean from 11,000 years ago until present. They describe the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) as having experienced significant and sustained ice loss until 7,500 years ago, driven by warm water incursions. The influx of warm water then subsided for several thousands of years until it was reinvigorated in the 1940s, driving further retreat.

The WAIS is of great interest to researchers as two of its largest glaciers, Thwaites and Pine Island, are draining into the sea and contributing to sea-level rise. The big questions are why, and by how much, and what may happen in the future under climate change.

Lead author Dr Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand senior marine geologist at BAS says:  “This ten-year study has yielded some exciting results. By understanding the mechanisms that caused the retreat of the WAIS over the past several thousand years, we can begin to build a clearer picture of what is happening today.”

Read more at British Antarctic Survey

Image: Sediment cores were collected from Pine Island Bay in West Antarctica using the German research vessel RV Polarstern. (Credit: James Smith @ British Antarctic Survey)

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