Sunday, August 16, 2009

Antarctic melt fears rise

Andrew Darby
The Age, August 17, 2009

THE Antarctic glacier that most worries scientists is melting at a much faster rate than expected.

Pine Island Glacier, west Antarctica's largest, has thinned four times more quickly over a decade than anticipated. British scientists say this has serious implications for the rise in global sea levels.

Ice currently held back by the glacier would lift global sea levels by about 30 centimetres if it melted, said Leeds University researcher Andrew Shepherd.

''[The] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's sea level projections will need to be revised,'' he said.

The panel's 2007 prediction of a sea level rise of up to 59 centimetres by 2095 cautioned that there should be an allowance for another 10 to 20 centimetres from polar ice sheets.

The giant glacier, which is grounded, is unlike Antarctica's floating ice shelves whose recent collapses did not directly affect sea levels.

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