An area larger than the state of Texas in West Antarctica melted to an unusual degree last year, with pools of the meltwater remaining on the surface for as long as 15 days. That’s trouble, since meltwater can accelerate the thawing already occurring from warming ocean temperatures. West Antarctica alone could contribute 10 feet of sea level rise, according to a 2009 paper published in Science.
This area in the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest chunk of floating ice, likely melted at its surface because of a particularly strong 2015–2016 El Niño event, which brought warm and moist sea air to the area, according to the study published today in Nature Communications. El Niños have caused melting atop the Ross Ice Shelf before, but this time it lasted unusually long, according to the paper. It appears it also rained on the ice shelf and other parts of West Antarctica. That …
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