Rather than rely on computer models, a couple of scientists did some actual science and found that rather than melting at an incredible rate, there’s no melting at all.
Hatterman and his colleagues, using 12 tons of hot-water drilling equipment, bored three holes more than 200m deep through the Fimbul Shelf, which spans an area roughly twice the size of New Jersey. The location of each hole was cunningly chosen so that the various pathways by which water moves beneath the ice shelf could be observed, and instruments were lowered down.
The boffins also supplemented their data craftily by harvesting info from a biology project, the Marine Mammal Exploration of the Oceans Pole to Pole (MEOP) effort, which had seen sensor packages attached to elephant seals.
“Nobody was expecting that the MEOP seals from Bouvetoya would swim straight to the Antarctic and stay along the Fimbul Ice Shelf for the entire winter,” Hattermann says. “But this behaviour certainly provided an impressive and unique data set.”
Normally, getting sea temperature readings along the shelf in winter would be dangerous if not impossible due to shifting pack ice – but the seals were perfectly at home among the grinding floes.
Overall, according to the team, their field data shows “steady state mass balance” on the eastern Antarctic coasts – ie, that no ice is being lost from the massive shelves there. The research ispublished in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Meanwhile, we’re to believe we’re in danger of flooding on the west coast because of all the melting ice.