Meltwater lakes could dramatically accelerate Antarctic ice melt in the coming years

(ORDO NEWS) — Climatologists have discovered evidence that in recent years, a large number of lakes from melt water have been increasingly appearing in the territory of East Antarctica.

The rapid growth of their number in the future will dramatically accelerate the melting of the most stable parts of the south polar cap, the press service of the British University of Durham said on Thursday.

“Our calculations show that the size of meltwater lakes increases dramatically during unusually warm summer seasons. This suggests that their area will increase markedly in the coming years as a result of global warming.

As a result, the rate of shrinkage of the Antarctic ice cap could increase dramatically “, – said a researcher at the University of Durham (UK) Jennifer Arthur, whose words are quoted by the press service of the university.

Climatologists suggest that the first and main victims of global warming will be the polar regions of the Earth and mountain glaciers.

In recent years, the temperature on their territory has become 4-9 degrees Celsius higher than in past centuries, which will irreversibly lead to a noticeable reduction in their area and the release of large areas of Antarctica and the Arctic from ice.

Until recently, these processes least affected the Earth’s largest ice sheet, which covers the eastern regions of Antarctica. Recent observations by scientists show that this situation has begun to change in recent years, the reasons for which are still a mystery to researchers.

Consequences of global warming

Arthur and her colleagues were interested in whether these processes could be associated with the appearance of a large number of lakes of melt water on the surface of the East Antarctic ice cap, which polar explorers and aircraft pilots periodically report about their occurrence.

To test this hypothesis, scientists analyzed all the images and data obtained by the Landsat 8 satellite when studying these temporary reservoirs in 2014-2020.

On the one hand, climatologists have found that the number and area of ​​meltwater lakes have changed dramatically from season to season, making it difficult to predict their appearance and assess their impact on the state of the ice sheet.

On the other hand, the calculations performed showed that the typical area of ​​these temporary reservoirs strongly depends on two climatic factors: the density of perennial snow and January temperatures.

This pattern, according to Arthur and her colleagues, indicates that the number and area of ​​meltwater lakes in the eastern regions of Antarctica will increase dramatically in the coming years as a result of the rapid increase in summer and average annual temperatures in the South Arctic.

This, in turn, will lead to the fact that the rate of melting of the eastern ice sheet will increase dramatically. As a result of this, there will be a threat of destabilization of this ice massif and its split into several smaller glaciers, each of which will be even more vulnerable to the effects of global warming than the current ice of East Antarctica, the scientists concluded.

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