Polar ice is melting quicker than thought – 17th December 2014
Researchers at the University of East Anglia have found that seas in West Antarctica have become half a degree warmer in 50 years. This could see sea levels rise by a few centimetres, leading to islands flooding and starvation for animals such as penguins. Professor Karen Heywood from the University of East Anglia said it was 'probably' due to global warming.
The new research has found that the shallow shelf seas of West Antarctica have become about half a degree warmer in the last 50 years, from 0.8 to 1.2°C (33.4 to 34.2°F).
Scientists from the UK, Germany, America and Japan have analysed the data collected from oceanographic records dating back to 1960. The research found that temperatures in the West Antarctic Amundsen Sea and the Bellingshausen Sea had been rising for the past 50 years. Alongisde this they also found the water was less salty which has accelerated the melting and sliding of glaciers in the region.
Professor Heywood said: 'The Antarctic ice sheet is a giant water reservoir. The ice cap on the southern continent is on average 2,100 metres [6,900 feet] thick and contains about 70 per cent of the world's fresh water. If this ice mass were to melt completely, it could raise the global sea level by 60 metres [195 feet]. That's not going to happen, but it gives you an idea of how much water is stored there. Accelerated glacial melting in this area has been observed for some time, causing a major contribution to rising sea levels worldwide.’
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