Antarctic glaciers surge to ocean
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24 Feb 08 - "UK scientists working in Antarctica have found some of the clearest evidence yet of instabilities in the ice of part of West Antarctica.
"If the trend continues, they say, it could lead to a significant rise in global sea level.
"The new evidence comes from a group of glaciers covering an area the size of Texas, in a remote and seldom visited part of West Antarctica.
"The "rivers of ice" have surged sharply in speed towards the ocean.
"The biggest of the glaciers, the Pine Island Glacier, is causing the most concern.
Julian Scott of the Bristish Antarctic Survey, who just returned from Antarctica, told the BBC: "This is a very important glacier; it's putting more ice into the sea than any other glacier in Antarctica.
"It's a couple of kilometres thick, its 30km wide and it's moving at 3.5km per year, so it's putting a lot of ice into the ocean," said Scott.
Scott, along with Rob Bingham and colleagues from the British Antarctic survey spent 97 days camping on the flat, white ice last year. At times, the temperature got down to minus 30C and strong winds made work impossible. At one point, the scientists were confined to their tent continuously for eight days.
"Throughout the 1990s, according to satellite measurements, the glacier was accelerating by around 1% a year. Scott's sensational finding this season is that it now seems to have accelerated by 7% in a single season, sending more and more ice into the ocean.
"The reason does not seem to be warming in the surrounding air."
Well, yes, I rather doubt that temperatures of minus 30C
"One possible culprit could be a deep ocean current that is channelled onto the continental shelf close to the mouth of the glacier. There is not much sea ice to protect it from the warm water, which seems to be undercutting the ice and lubricating its flow.
If the ice is already floating in the water, how can it raise
"Julian Scott, however, thinks there may be other forces at work as well.
"Much higher up the course of the glacier there is evidence of a volcano that erupted through the ice about 2,000 years ago and the whole region could be volcanically active, releasing geothermal heat to melt the base of the ice and help its slide towards the sea."
Yes! Now this one I accept.
"If the glacier does continue to surge and discharge most of it ice into the sea, say the researchers, the Pine Island Glacier alone could raise global sea level by 25cm.
"That might take decades or a century, but neighbouring glaciers are accelerating too and if the entire region were to lose its ice, the sea would rise by 1.5m worldwide."
Uh huh. Are we really supposed to worry about the idea
See also Antarctic ice grows to record levels
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