Antarctica is melting faster and faster, however, there is something that can slow it down. The bedrock underneath the West Antarctic ice sheet is rapidly rising – offering a lifeline for this threatened region.
According to the scientific data, the bedrock has the potential to protect ice from warm seawater melting it from below, potentially buying more time to stop the ice sheet collapsing altogether.
An international team, led by DTU Space at the Technical University of Denmark with Colorado State University, has found out such an information.
“We studied a surprising and important mechanism, glacial isostatic adjustment, that may slow the demise of the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet by lifting up the bedrock and sediments beneath the ice sheet,” explained CSU Professor Rick Aster, a co-author of the study and head of the Department of Geosciences at the university.
Does the bedrock help Antarctica?
“The rate of uplift we found is unusual and very surprising. It’s a game changer,” said Professor Terry Wilson, one of the leaders of the study at Ohio State University.
This grounding line then counteracts the process of the ice sheet collapse.
Researchers also found that the uplift is accelerating and predicted that it will continue to do so into the next century.
“Our research indicates that recent and ongoing ice loss in the region has been underestimated by approximately 10 % in past studies because this bedrock uplift was inadequately accounted for in satellite measurements,” said Aster.
Lead author Valentina Barletta, a postdoctoral researcher at DTU Space, Technical University of Denmark, said that this uplift is occurring very rapidly when compared with other regions of the Earth where glaciers are melting.
Overall, the bedrock was rising by over 4 cm every year, one of the fastest rates ever recorded in icy areas.
Due to the massive quantities of water stored in the West Antarctic ice sheet, news of its increased stability should be good news – especially for those living in the northern hemisphere, where melting Antarctic ice would have a disproportionate effect on local sea levels.
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