SOURCE: University of Texas News

DATE: November 1, 2017

SNIP: Totten Glacier, the largest glacier in East Antarctica, is being melted from below by warm water that reaches the ice when winds over the ocean are strong—a cause for concern because the glacier holds more than 11 feet of sea level rise and acts as a plug that helps lock in the ice of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that wind is responsible for bringing warm water to Totten’s underbelly, causing the glacier to melt from below. This finding helps answer the question of what causes Totten to speed up some years and slow down in others. Climate change is expected to increase the intensity of winds over the Southern Ocean throughout the next century, and the new findings show that Totten Glacier will probably respond to the changing winds.

During the next century, winds are expected to intensify and migrate closer to the East Antarctic coast as a result of increased atmospheric greenhouse gas. This study suggests that as winds over the Southern Ocean intensify, so will Totten Glacier’s contribution to global sea level rise.