(The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center)
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming at three times the global average, according to temperature measurements at Byrd Polar Station. This has implications for the melting of the West Antarctic Ice sheet (WAIS) and sea level rise.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is inherently unstable due to it's grounding in a deep depression below sea level. Warm Southern ocean currents are already reducing ice shelves holding back ice discharge from glaciers. As these ice shelves are undermined and break up it will allow significant acceleration of glacier discharge increasing the rate of sea level rise.
Lead study author David H. Bromwich from Ohio State University said:
"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," said Bromwich.
"Even without generating significant mass loss directly, surface melting on the WAIS could contribute to sea level indirectly, by weakening the West Antarctic ice shelves that restrain the region's natural ice flow into the ocean."