January 16, 2009

Rain in Antarctica Causing Melting Glaciers, Rising Sea Levels

Increased rainfall on the Antarctic Peninsula is rapidly melting glaciers like the Sheldon, which has recoiled 1.2 miles in 20 years and is raising world sea levels, a leading expert announced.

"Rain is very corrosive to glaciers and at least in part the reason this glacier is retreating," said David Vaughan, a British Antarctic Survey glaciologist.

"The glacier has retreated since 1989 and left this open water. That's the same pattern for 87 percent of 400 glaciers along the Antarctic Peninsula," he added.

The front part of the Sheldon glacier has been melting since 1989, due to global warming created by greenhouse gases Vaughan said.

Vaughan said rain is increasing in the summertime on the peninsula, the northernmost part of Antarctica.

The thawing of the Shelton glacier, close to the British Rothera research station, is increasing world sea levels.

"It doesn't add up to much on its own but by the time we've added Patagonia, Alaska, all those other areas where glaciers are receding, we have 1 millimeter (0.04 inch) at least (a year) of sea level rise around the globe," Vaughan said.

Ocean levels are rising 11.8 inches every 100 years. The rate continues to grow.

Vaughan, a member of the U.N. Climate Panel, is worried about the melting glaciers in.

"The concern is ... that the much bigger glaciers (further south) are going to start doing the same thing," he said. The huge Pine Island glacier in the south is also melting at an accelerated pace.

190 governments have are trying to create a new U.N. treaty by the end of 2009 that addresses global warming. They fear that rising sea levels may flood low-lying Pacific Islands or coastal cities like Amsterdam and Sydney.

Standard temperatures on the peninsula have increased by 5.4 degrees in the last 50 years.


On The Net:

U.N. Climate Panel