Warming bringing longer Antarctic melting

March 27, 2013 at 3:59 PM
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LONDON, March 27 (UPI) -- The length of the summer melt season in part of Antarctica has been getting longer, and increasing ice loss, for the last 60 years, British scientists say.

The summer melting has been linked to the rapid break-up of ice shelves in the area and rising sea levels, they said.

Researchers with the British Antarctic Survey reported the Antarctic Peninsula -- a mountainous region extending northwards towards South America -- is warming much faster than the rest of Antarctica, with temperatures up by 5 degrees F since the 1950s.

The increase on the peninsula is three times the global average during the same time period, a release from the survey said Tuesday, and has resulted in summer temperatures high enough for snow to melt.

Survey researchers analyzed records from 30 weather stations on the peninsula.

"We found a significant increase in the length of the melting season at most of the stations with the longest temperature records" Nick Barrand says. "At one station the average length of the melt season almost doubled between 1948 and 2011."

This summer melting can enlarge cracks in floating ice shelves, which can contribute to their retreat or collapse, the researchers said.

It also increases the speed at which glaciers flow to the sea, they said.

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