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New research, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, has found that Antarctic icebergs can weaken and delay the effect of Global Warming in the Southern Hemisphere.
Unabated Global Warming threatens the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet. Recent observations reveal a rapid thinning of the Pine Island and Thwaites glacier regions in Antarctica, which can be attributed partly to warming oceans. These findings have raised concerns of an accelerated ice loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet and potential contributions to global sea level rise. Ice loss can occur in the form of melt-induced (liquid) freshwater discharge into the ocean, or through (solid) iceberg calving.
Future - Retreat - Antarctic - Ice - Sheet
With a projected future retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet, scientists expect an intensification of iceberg discharge. Icebergs can persist for years and are carried by winds and currents through the Southern Ocean until they reach warmer waters and ultimately melt. The melting process cools ocean waters like ice cubes in a cocktail glass. Furthermore, freshwater discharge from icebergs impacts currents by lowering ocean salinity. Whether this "iceberg effect'' can slow down or alter future climate change in the Southern Hemisphere has remained an open question.
Climate researchers from the University of Hawaii (USA), the IBS Center for Climate Physics (South Korea), Penn State University (USA) and University of Massachusetts (USA) have now quantified for the first time this effect of Antarctic iceberg calving on future Southern Hemisphere climate. The team ran a series of Global Warming computer simulations, which include the combined freshwater and cooling effects of icebergs on the ocean. The size and number of icebergs released in their model mimics the gradual retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet over a period of several hundred years. By turning on an off the...
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