2,000 km of the Antarctic coast are covered by stable ice for 85 years

Forgotten aerial photographs of a 1937 whale ship have provided researchers at the University of Copenhagen with the most detailed picture to date of the evolution of ice in East Antarctica.

2 de June de 2024 19:31

General map of the area analyzed by the University of Copenhagen.

The results show that the ice has remained stable and even grown slightly for almost a century, although scientists are seeing early signs of weakening. The research provides new insights that improve predictions of ice changes and sea level rise.

Higher temperatures, extreme atmospheric conditions, melting glaciers and rising sea levels – all indicators that the world's climate and ice masses are in a critical state. However, a new study published in Nature Communications from the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management at the University of Copenhagen offers a bright spot at the local level.

Using hundreds of old aerial photographs dating back to 1937, combined with modern computer technology, researchers have tracked the evolution of glaciers in East Antarctica. The area covers approximately 2,000 kilometers of coastline and contains as much ice as the entire Greenland ice sheet.

By comparing historical aerial photographs with modern satellite data, researchers were able to determine whether the glaciers have retreated or advanced and whether they have thickened or thinned. The study reveals that the ice has not only remained stable, but has grown slightly over the past 85 years, in part due to increased snowfall.

"We constantly hear about climate change and new melting records, so it's comforting to look at an area of glaciers that has remained stable for almost a century," says Ph.D. student Mads Dømgaard, first author of the study.

However, the researcher highlights that the study also shows the first signs of changes in the sea ice in front of the glacier. This could mean that stable glaciers in East Antarctica could shrink in the future.

"Our results also indicate a weakening of sea ice conditions, making the glaciers' floating ice tongues more vulnerable and unable to grow as much as seen in the first aerial images from 1937. We know from other parts of Antarctica that the ocean plays an extremely important role and drives the enormous and increasing melting that we see, for example, in West Antarctica ," says Dømgaard.



By Agenda Malvinas


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