Sea levels in Antarctica are rising even more rapidly than seas in the rest of the world, a new study shows. For the past 19 years, the oceans in Antarctica have been increasing in depth by 2 cm (a little less than one inch) a year more than the world-wide average for increasing sea depth of 6 cm a year.
The study was conducted by scientists from the University of Southampton in Southampton, England. The paper was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The research team used satellite technology to measure a very large area, over a million square kilometers (about 400,000 square feet).
The study found that the rapidly melting Antarctic ice was adding at least 350 gigatons (a gigaton is a billion tons) of fresh water to the oceans near it, diluting the salt. The team sent ships out to test the salt content in the oceans near the continent and found that this was true.
"Freshwater is less dense than salt water and so in regions where an excess of freshwater has accumulated we expect a localized rise in sea level," said Craig Rye, lead author of the paper. Rye is a postgraduate research student at the University of Southampton.
The team also created computer programs that simulated the melting ice sheets in Antarctica. They found that the computer simulation also pointed to the Antarctic sea levels rising at a more rapid rate.
Rye said that this simulation supported the team's idea that the rapid rise in water level in the Antarctic is caused by the addition of fresh water reducing the salinity of the ocean.
"The interaction between air, sea and ice in these seas is central to the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and global sea levels, as well as other environmental processes, such as the generation of Antarctic bottom water, which cools and ventilates much of the global ocean abyss," Rye said.
This research study was conducted with help from fellow researchers at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, England, and the British Antarctic Survey, which is dedicated to studying the Antarctic.
Another study published in August confirms that the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are thinning more rapidly than ever in the past twenty years. The U.N. has been meeting to determine ways to curb climate change before more irreversible damage is done to the Earth.