Ocean Warming has caused the world’s largest ice shelf to melt. The study of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf by international scientists revealed that the solar heating of the surrounding Antarctica ocean surface attributed to the melt rate, which was growing 10 times faster than the overall ice shelf average. The four-year-long study observed how the northwest portion of the ice shelf interacted with the ocean beneath it. The international team of scientists concluded that the ice was melting much more rapidly than anticipated, due to inflowing warm water. The area that covers Ross Ice Shelf is equivalent to the size of France. It is several hundred meters thick and constitutes 90 per cent of the ice below sea level.
An oceanographic mooring which was installed under the Ross Ice Shelf by collaborators at National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) was collected by the research team. They used instruments which were deployed through a 260 meter-deep borehole. This helped the team to measure melt rates, temperature, salinity, and ocean currents in the cavity under the ice. By using precise custom-made radar system, the team could study the changing thickness of the ice shelf. Reports suggest that the research team travelled about more than 1000 km in order to measure ice thicknesses and to map basal melt rates. For the commute the team allegedly used a snowmobile.
Study conducted via advanced infrastructural facility revealed that the solar heated surface water flowed into the cavity formed under the ice shelf near Ross Island. This served as the main purpose for melt rates, which increase threefold in percentage during summer. In front of the ice, the shelf is an empty sea ice, this is known as the Ross Sea Polynya, which absorbs solar heat way more quickly. But the higher temperatures in the Ross Sea have aggravated the melt rates in the ice shelf.
Previous research reveals the Ross Ice Shelf to be stable. However, the new findings and climatic change have exposed it to vulnerability. It is mainly because the solar heated surface water flows into the cavity near a stabilizing pinning point. If the basal melting intensifies further, the inflow of warm water could affect the Ice Shelf further in the future.