Antarctica Melting Twice as Fast as Expected

During the summer, the scientific community sounded the alarm over the accelerating meltdown of the Arctic ice sheet.

Now, new data is raising concerns about a similar pattern in West Antarctica, which is warming twice as fast as expected. The trend has serious ramifications for sea level rise around  the world, particularly in low-lying areas.

Since 1958, temperatures measured at the Byrd Station scientific outpost have risen an average of 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius), nearly three times as fast as the rest of the world. 


West Antarctica holds enough ice to raise world sea levels by at least 3.3 meters (11 feet). 

“Our record suggests that continued summer warming in West Antarctica could upset the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, so that the region could make an even bigger contribution to sea level rise than it already does,” says David Bromwich, professor of geography at Ohio State University and senior scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center.

“Even without generating significant mass loss directly, surface melting on the [West Antarctic Ice Sheet] could contribute to sea level indirectly, by weakening the West Antarctic ice shelves that restrain the region’s natural ice flow into the ocean,” he says.

Thinning ice in West Antarctica is currently responsible for nearly 10% of global sea level rise. And scientists are gravely concerned about the 4 billion tons of methane that’s trapped beneath the ice, about the same as under the Arctic icecap.

Predictions that sea levels will rise 7-24 inches during this century are already being surpassed around the world, as melting in Greenland and Antarctica continue to accelerate. And the east and west coasts of the US are rising much faster than the rest of the world.

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Comments on “Antarctica Melting Twice as Fast as Expected”

  1. math_check

    If the temperature has risen by an average of 4 degrees per year, since 1958, the ice would have melted long ago.

    Follow the logic:

    1. That’s a 54 year span.
    2. Average of 4.3 degrees per year, we will call it 4.
    3. That means the temperature has increased a total of about 216 degrees since 1958.

    Gotta love sensationalist climate science reporting.

  2. Rod

    Someone at Sustainable Business made an editing error by adding “a year.”

    The NCAR press release says:
    “The temperature record from Byrd Station, a scientific outpost in the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), demonstrates a marked increase of 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) in average annual temperature since 1958. The rate of increase is three times faster than the average temperature rise around the globe for the same period.”

    So 4.3 deg F (2.4 deg C)is the total change in average annual temperature since 1958 at Byrd Station.

    Another editorial concern in the article above is:
    “…scientists are gravely concerned about the 4 billion tons of methane that’s trapped beneath the South Pole ice,…”
    –The issue is potential releases from Antarctica rather than the “South Pole.” As this article reports portions of the continent are warming and thawing but much of it (even where warming is occurring) remains and is projected to remain for some time below freezing year round.

    Extra care is in order in editing such reports to ensure accuracy. We don’t need certain people to cherry pick certain articles to claim bias and sensationalism while impugning the credibility of the science.

  3. Rona Fried

    Thank you, Rod, we made the corrections you suggested. We are very careful in our articles, but we did miss these.

  4. math_check

    That’s better. There are still some language issues in the article, but let’s honest, trying to take technical information into the public realm is challenging.

    I appreciate the update.

  5. Student Of Pole Shift

    Thank God it is melting. If the North Pole melts and the South Pole doesn’t we are screwed: There could be a partial or a major displacement of continents in a Pole Shift. That is, the planet gets “bottom heavy” and the rotation goes out of whack with catastrophic tidal waves and flooding. I suspect the major governments of the world have done thousands of computer models of it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are using HAARP to melt the ice at the South Pole. I pray to God that they know what they are doing and that it works. I will forgive them a lot if they can keep the planet from toppling over.


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