antarctica ice flows visualization whole continent nasa gsfc svs

  • Antarctica is warming faster than most places on Earth, causing surface melt.
  • Melt water below the continent’s thick ice sheets lubricates their movement toward the ocean.
  • A new study backs up the idea that a hot plume of rock in the mantle is sitting below West Antarctica.
  • This plume may contribute to higher-than-normal ice losses in West Antarctica.

Antarctica today takes a lot of heat from above, thanks to two hundred years of carbon-belching human activity and the warming this has caused.

An increasing number of researchers also think the frozen Southern Continent faces significant warming from below: Hot rock pluming upward through Earth’s mantle, leaking heat through the crust, and melting the bottoms of Antarctic ice sheets.

The effect, first proposed 30 years ago, seems especially strong in West Antarctica, where ice sheets losses are most dramatic and contributing to sea-level rise. But few scientists believed this was happening, at least initially.

antarctica ice sheet melting losses cryo satellite esa“I thought it was crazy,” Hélène Seroussi, a climatologist and ice researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. “I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it.”

However, a new study by Seroussi and others now backs up the idea of a hot mantle plume — and the melting it causes — with advanced computer modeling.

The work was published September 1 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

Rising from the depths

earth core crust mantle layers shutterstock

Earth’s internal heat is always warming up the ground, including rock under ice sheets all over the planet. While this partially melts them from below, Read More Here