Melting water causing Antarctic ice to buckle, scientists confirm

For the first time, a team of scientists from the University of Chicago and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences has directly observed an Antarctic ice shelf bending under the weight of ponding meltwater on top—a phenomenon that may have triggered the historic 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf.

It’s thought that the flexing of ice shelves could potentially impact other vulnerable ice shelves, causing them to break up, quickening the discharge of ice into the ocean and contributing to global sea level rise.

“Scientists have been predicting and modeling this process for some time, but nobody has ever collected field data that showed it happening until now,” said Alison Banwell, a postdoctoral visiting fellow at CIRES and lead author of a new study published Feb. 13 in Nature Communications.

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