Study Reveals Over 40% of Antarctica's Ice Shelves Have Shrunk Since 1997

  • 13 Oct 2023

According to a recent research Antarctica, a critical indicator of the planet's response to climate change, has witnessed dramatic changes as more than 40% of its ice shelves have shrunk since 1997.

Alarmingly, nearly half of these ice shelves show "no sign of recovery," and this phenomenon is linked to the ongoing climate crisis.

Key Points

  • Losses and Gains: The research indicates that during the period from 1997 to 2021, the western part of Antarctica lost a staggering 67 trillion tonnes of ice, while the eastern part saw an addition of 59 trillion tonnes, resulting in a net loss of 7.5 trillion tonnes.
  • Role of Warm Water: The study highlights that the western side of Antarctica has been subjected to the melting effects of warm water, leading to the erosion of ice shelves from beneath.
  • In contrast, ice shelves in the eastern part of Antarctica have either remained stable or grown due to colder water conditions.
  • Significant Consequences: Ice shelves, situated at the terminus of glaciers, serve to slow down the flow of ice into the sea.
  • Their reduction results in larger freshwater discharge into the ocean, disrupting the currents in the Southern Ocean.
  • Impact on Ocean Currents: The estimated 67 trillion tonnes of freshwater released into the ocean over the 25-year period has far-reaching consequences, affecting ocean currents responsible for transporting heat and nutrients around the world.
  • Climate Crisis Implication: Scientists attribute this ice loss to the climate crisis, as natural cycles would lead to ice regrowth.
  • However, the lack of recovery in almost half of the shrinking ice shelves suggests a non-cyclical, ongoing trend.