Concern over west Antarctica warming

Mon, Dec 24, 2012, 00:00

West Antarctica is warming almost twice as fast as previously believed, increasing worries of a thaw that would add to sea-level rise from San Francisco to Shanghai, a study has shown.

Annual average temperatures at the Byrd research station in West Antarctica had risen 2.4 degrees since the 1950s, one of the fastest gains on the planet and three times the global average in a changing climate, it said.

The unexpectedly big increase adds to fears the ice sheet is vulnerable to thawing. West Antarctica holds enough ice to raise world sea levels by at least 3.3m (11ft) if it all melted, a process that would take centuries.

“The western part of the ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought,” Ohio State University said in a statement on the study led by its geography professor, David Bromwich.

The warming “raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea-level rise”, it said.

Higher summer temperatures raised risks of a surface melt of ice and snow even though most of Antarctica is in a year-round deep freeze.

Low-lying nations from Bangladesh to Tuvalu are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise, as are coastal cities from London to Buenos Aires. – (Reuters)