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Antarctica: Ice Shelves Shrinking ‘With No Sign of Recovery’

Around 40% of Antarctica’s ice shelves shrunk in the past 25 years, according to a new study published on Thursday.

Scientists found 68 of Antarctica’s 162 ice shelves experienced a “statistically significant” reduction in mass between 1997 and 2021.

“We expected most ice shelves to go through cycles of rapid, but short-lived shrinking, then to regrow slowly,” said Benjamin Davison, a research fellow at the University of Leeds, who was the lead author of the study published in Science Advances. “Instead, we see that almost half of them are shrinking with no sign of recovery.”

Another nine ice sheets saw smaller losses over the same period, while 29 gained mass and 62 did not change significantly.

The role of ice shelves

Ice shelves are freshwater extensions of the ice sheets that cover much of Antarctica.

The sheets float on the ocean waters surrounding the continent and stabilize glaciers by slowing down the flow of ice into the ocean. When ice shelves shrink, the rate of ice loss from glaciers increases.

Melting ice shelves can also dilute the salt water around Antarctica. This, in turn, slows its ability to transport vital nutrients, such as heat and carbon, to and from the polar ecosystem.

The study’s authors stated these changes were the result of climate change.

“We are seeing a steady attrition due to melting and calving… This is further evidence that Antarctica is changing because the climate is warming,” said Anna Hogg, a University of Leeds professor who co-authored the study.

Source : DW