How Do Melting Ice Sheets Affect Sea Level? Study Reveals Findings

First Posted: Feb 03, 2016 11:17 AM EST

Melting ice sheets in Antarctica caused by ocean warming could potentially increase global sea levels by three meters. In the study, a team of scientists examined a number of landscapes to determine how warmer temperatures affect the West Antarctic ice sheet.

"Our findings narrow the margin of uncertainty around the likely impact of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on sea level rise," Dr. Andrew Hein, coauthor of the study from the University of Edinburgh, said in a news release. "This remains a troubling forecast since all signs suggest the ice from West Antarctica could disappear relatively quickly."

In a similar study, the researchers were able to determine how ice levels on landmasses have changed over the course of thousands of years, in this case the Ellsworth Mountains is an example. The researchers analyzed changes on the slopes at varying heights on the mountainside, which revealed the levels previously reached by the ice sheet. The team noted that boulders on the mountainside were likely from melting glaciers.

The team's findings indicated that a massive amount of ice was lost from the West Antarctic ice sheet due to ocean warming. The researchers indicated that the ice was lost from areas under sea level and not landmasses.

"It is possible that the ice sheet has passed the point of no return and, if so, the big question is how much will go and how much will sea levels rise," said Professor John Woodward, lead author of the study from the University of Northumbria.

The findings of this study were published in Nature Communications.

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