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Unusual Antarctic Weather Leads To Texas-Sized Melt

First Posted: Jun 16, 2017 05:20 AM EDT
NASA's Operation IceBridge Maps Changes To Antartica's Ice Mass
Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica as seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A massive melt on the surface of the highly vulnerable West Antarctica is feared to start a snowball effect due to climate change. In fact, an area larger than the state of Texas already melted to an unusual degree in 2016.

While ice melting occurs from time to time, meltwater can actually accelerate the thawing that is already occurring in the ocean. If this continues, West Antarctica alone can contribute about 10 feet of sea level rise.

According to The Verge, the area in the Ross Ice Shelf likely melted at the surface because of the 2015-2016 El Niño event. During this period, warm and moist sea air was brought in the area and may have caused the melting of what is said to be the world's largest chunk of floating ice.

Another worrisome event in Antarctica is a recent rainfall -- a striking event that rattled the scientific community. Robin Bell, an Antarctic researcher from Columbia University, expressed that Antarctic rain is unheard of, considering that it is an icy desert.

Fortunately, for now, the melt does not have any large consequences yet. As The Washington Post noted, the shelf surface subsequently froze again. Still, it is a worrisome thought that one day, the ice could melt -- and stay melted. David Bromwich, an Antarctic expert at Ohio State University and one of the authors of the study, said that this even provides the scientific community of a possible glimpse of the future.

Bromwich also added that this is particularly worrisome because it fits into a pattern that became an influential study of Antarctica. In the study, climate and ice sheet models predicted the possibility of major ice loss during the century. If this happens, at least 4 feet of sea level rise will be seen in Antarctica alone.

The bad news does not end there. The melting event in Antarctica today is said to be a "taste of what's to come," and in the future, people should expect for frequent, extended melting along the ice sheets of West Antarctica.

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