New research recently published, has confirmed that the larger ice shelf of East Antarctica, the Totten Glacier is melting faster than we thought.
It is the Totten Glacier which holds most of the ice in the continent. The very thought that the Totten Glacier could perhaps one day float off into the sea is bewildering. Some of the ice on this glacier is well over two miles thick. The ice shelf is vast – about the size of California and New Mexico put together. There is so much ice here that, should it every warm and melt, it could raise sea levels by an unthinkable 12 feet.
Research has also discovered that the ice shelf has retreated in the past – in fact, several times, meaning there are areas of instability in the ice shelf, particularly as you move towards its interior.
The research was carried out by scientists and teams from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. However, these continuing cycles of retreat, it must be pointed out, have occurred over a period of about 30 million years.
The study team in the U.S. even released a press statement from the University of Texas in Austin, warning that the shelf and vast regions throughout the Totten Glacier are “fundamentally unstable and in particular across the East Antarctic.”
The glacier has been thinning at a rapid rate. The grounding line is the line where the glacier under the sea actually touches and meets with the seabed. However, in the last 20 years, the glacier has retreated inland by as much as 3 km (1.8 miles), suggesting that Totten can only lose 5 percent more of its ice shelf before it can structurally hold the larger glacier in place.
Earth’s glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought
The continent of Antarctica is made up of two vast regions – West Antarctica and East Antarctica. The East is by far the larger of the two ice masses and combined the entire area is so big you could fit the entire country of the United States easily within its borders.