Fast-flowing and narrow glaciers have the potential to trigger massive changes in the Antarctic ice sheet and contribute to rapid ice-sheet decay and sea-level rise, a new study has found.
Research results published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveal in more detail than ever before how warming waters in the Southern Ocean are connected intimately with the movement of massive ice-sheets deep in the Antarctic interior.
"It has long been known that narrow glaciers on the edge of the Antarctica act as discrete arteries termed ice streams, draining the interior of the ice sheet," says Dr Chris Fogwill, an author of the study and an ARC Future Fellow with the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre.
"However, our results have confirmed recent observations suggesting that ocean warming can trigger increased flow of ice through these narrow corridors. This can cause inland sectors of the ice-sheet -- some larger than the state of Victoria -- to become thinner and flow faster."