This is the first time scientists have found that melting on the surface impacts the flow of glaciers in Antarctica.
Using imagery and data from satellites alongside regional climate modelling, scientists at the University of Sheffield have found that meltwater is causing some glaciers to move at speeds 100 per cent faster than average (up to 400m per year) for a period of several days multiple times per year.
Glaciers - Gravity - Deformation - Ice - Basal
Glaciers move downhill due to gravity via the internal deformation of ice, and basal sliding -- where they slide over the ground beneath them, lubricated by liquid water.
The new research, published today in Nature Communications, shows that accelerations in Antarctic Peninsula glaciers' movements coincide with spikes in snowmelt. This association occurs because surface meltwater penetrates to the ice bed and lubricates glacier flow. The scientists expect that as temperatures continue to rise in the Antarctic, surface melting will occur more frequently and across a wider area, making it an important factor in determining the speed at which glaciers move towards the sea.
Glaciers - Antarctic - Peninsula - Greenland - Alaska
Ultimately, they predict that glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula will behave like those in present-day Greenland and Alaska, where meltwater controls the size and timing of variations in glacier flow across seasons and years.
The effects of such a major shift in Antarctic glacier...
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