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    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    Winds driven by climate change are rapidly melting the West Antarctic

    The West Antarctic ice shelf is rapidly melting away because of 435mph winds which are driven by climate change, a new study has found.

    Strong gusts from the eastern coast are driving waves of warm water towards the ice, which is now melting at a faster rate than once believed, according to scientists.

    This is fuelling the breaking off of vast icebergs in the West Antarctic – such as the iceberg on the Larsen C ice-shelf last week.

    The iceberg weighs a staggering trillion tons and has an area of 2,239 sq miles (5,800 sq km), making roughly the size of Delaware, or equivalent to the size of Wales.

    In the latest study, researchers found climate change has caused water close to south pole to warm, as well as the increased frequency of strong winds in the region.

    They looked at how strong winds from the east of Antarctica are driving the high rate of ice melt along the West Antarctic Peninsula.

    Researchers found that the winds in East Antarctica can travel across the continent at almost 435mph (700km/h) via a type of ocean wave known as a Kelvin wave.

    When these waves encounter the steep underwater cliffs off the West Antarctic Peninsula they push warmer water towards the large ice shelves along the shoreline.

    The warm Antarctic Circumpolar Current passes quite close to the continental shelf in this region, providing a source for this warm water.

    'It is this combination of available warm water offshore, and a transport of this warm water onto the shelf, that has seen rapid ice shelf melt along the West Antarctic sector over the past several decades,' said lead researcher Dr Paul Spence from the University of New South Wales in Australia.

    'We always knew warm water was finding its way into this area but the precise mechanism has remained unclear.

    'This would be disastrous for coastal regions and displace hundreds of millions of people worldwide'.

    He added that global warming could bring tropical storms to the continent, causing more ice to melt.

    Dr Spence said: 'If we do take rapid action to counter global warming and slow the rise in temperatures, southern storms tracks are likely to return to a more northerly position.

    'That may slow the melting in Western Antarctica and bring more reliable autumn and winter rains back to the southern parts of Australia.'

    'It would also limit ocean warming and give some of the world's major marine-terminating ice sheets a chance to stabilise.

    For more info go to dailymail.co.uk

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