Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Antarctica: rising bedrock raises hope

New findings say that the uplift rate of the West Antarctic ice Sheet is unusually high New findings say that the uplift rate of the West Antarctic ice Sheet is unusually high
28 Jul
2018
Rising bedrock under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could prevent climate change ice loss

It is not often that positive news comes from Antarctica, especially when it comes to ice. Nonetheless, a team of geologists from Ohio University have discovered that the bedrock of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is rising at a rapid pace. The researchers describe it as a ‘game changer’ when it comes to ice loss prevention in the region.

Scientists were already aware the West Antarctic ground was rising – it is caused by the bedrock rebounding after ice melt. The main surprise was the rate of the uplift under the Amundsen Sea – a speedy 41 millimetres per year. How does that help preserve ice? The idea is that rising rock creates pointed features that pin the ice sheet in place from underneath – ‘pinning points’ – which slow the ice’s descent to the sea. The researchers also predict that the rising bedrock could decrease the gradient of glacier slopes, further slowing the ice loss. Professor of Earth Science and contributing author, Terry Wilson, explained these feedbacks could ‘slow or even stop’ the process of freshwater ice melting into the sea. ‘Under many realistic climate models, this should be enough to stabilise the ice sheet’.

The rate of uplift is unusually high. It is faster even than Alaska and Iceland, which are considered to have quick rates of uplift of 20 to 30mm per year. The exception is being put down to geology. Valentina Barletta, lead author of the study, believes there is hotter and more fluid mantle under the bedrock, which causes the ground to rise quicker. She predicts the rate will become even faster in time, by around two or three times through the next century.

There is some bad news. The uplift may have disguised how much the ice has already diminished on the West Antarctica Ice Sheet. Specifically, the uplift rates are thought to have confused gravity readings in the region, leading researchers to underestimate the ice loss by ten per cent. The finding is significant given that the sheet accounts for a quarter of the ice contribution to global sea-level rise.

This was published in the August 2018 edition of Geographical magazine

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Related items

Subscribe to Geographical!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Natural Capital: Putting a price on nature
    Natural capital is a way to quantify the value of the world that nature provides for us – the air, soils, water, even recreational activity. Advocat...
    The human game – tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

A new system of robotic aerial vehicles is revolutionising the…

Wildlife

Technology used in creating safe urban environments is now being…

Climate

Brazil’s shift to the right of the political spectrum could…

Wildlife

Laura Cole travels to Orkney to find out why numbers…

Wildlife

The unprecedented frequency of winter tick epidemics have resulted in…

Oceans

Ocean debris, mostly composed of plastic, reaches remote Atlantic islands…

Geophoto

With motion detectors becoming ever more sophisticated, and clearer, crisper…

Nature

Natural capital is a way to quantify the value of…

Tectonics

The reason for the unusual location of Mount St Helens…

Climate

Most plants thicken their leaves in response to higher carbon…

Climate

Not just the preserve of flatulent cows, methane is causing…

Climate

As the United States’ Supreme Court delays a landmark climate…

Geophoto

Of Britain's 15 national parks, the New Forest is probably…

Energy

The Treasury has announced that it is considering imposing a…

Tectonics

Major earthquakes are triggering seismic activity half the world away

Climate

Marco Magrini finds that a warming world also means a…

Wildlife

Unchecked tourism is potentially reducing the number of cheetah cubs that…

Oceans

A relocated military base in Okinawa, Japan will cause ‘irreversible’…

Climate

The ongoing recovery of the planet’s ozone layer is being…

Oceans

The Ocean Cleanup has launched System 001, a floating barrier…