NASA: Antarctica’s polar ice melting at alarming rate

By Brian Ang Nov 30, 2016 02:30 PM EST
NASA's Operation 'IceBridge' Observes Rapid Ice Melt at South Pole
ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: A section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 31, 2016 in-flight over Antarctica. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and is currently flying a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed. The United Nations climate change talks begin November 7 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Temperature will soon rise in Antarctica as the austral climate sets in the region. The Southern Ocean will undergo a stretch where there is a quick melting of ice at sea.

According to NASA's Operation 'IceBridge,' the ice level in the South Pole is at its lowest since the amount of hardened water has been primarily monitored by a satellite in 1979.

It has been known previously that Antarctica's ice layer had added 112 billion tons of solid liquid from 1992 to 2001. Between 2003 and 2008, the net gain has narrowed down to 82 billion which indicates that the ice discharge has significantly increased.

The space agency's polar project has spearheaded a system that observes ice changes in the area. Sophisticated tools are in place to measure level alterations.

IceBridge Project Scientist and NASA's Sea Ice Researcher Nathan Kurtz states that trips to Bellingshausen Sea had been done numerous times in order to get a periodic evaluation of sea ice development. Such study is intended to depict the future trajectory of the subject and its effects on climate.

This year, the NASA operation has extended its reach as the coverage included Ruppert Coast in West Antarctica to Recovery Glacier in the eastern part of the region. IceBridge personnel have scoured the South Pole a couple of times, a rare move considering that satellites seldom hovers the location. IceBridge has carried out 24 flights across Antarctica during more than a month of work from its base in Chile's Punta Arenas.

In one of the group's operations, a huge crack at the peninsula's Larsen C Ice Shelf has been seen. These shelves are parts of ice streams that eventually head off and add to the ocean's water levels.

Experts estimate the Larsen C fissure to be around 70 miles long and more than 300 feet wide. It is also around a third of a mile deep.

Glaciologist Joe MacGregor, IceBridge Deputy Project Scientist, shares that rifts don't normally end with the collapse of ice shelves. When the chink grows, it signifies that a portion of an ice stream is no longer attached to any grounded ice.

During the course of its missions, Operation IceBridge hooks up with other scientific organizations. This year, the team has communicated with the European Space Agency (ESA) as NASA's group flew under its counterpart's CryoSat-2 satellites.




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