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Southern Ocean Warming Faster Than Thought, Threatening Antarctic Ice

“A layer of warming water is rising from the subsurface, threatening to speed up Antarctic ice melt”

“The Southern Ocean is one of the most important yet least explored and understood regions of the planet when it comes to determining how global warming may affect the future of humanity, thanks to its capacity to absorb huge quantities of heat and carbon dioxide, and melt swaths of the Antarctic ice sheet.

In addition, this vast ocean, part of which separates Australia and Antarctica and also circles the frozen continent, is where global ocean currents get started, as heat is exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere, salinity differences arise in various layers of the deep, storm-churned waters, and currents reaching the North Atlantic Ocean and beyond are powered.

In recent years, understanding how the Southern Ocean is changing as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions has taken on greater urgency as scientists have learned more about the fragility of large parts of the Antarctic ice sheet, since glaciers extending into the ocean are being eroded by relatively mild waters below. Like removing a doorstop, the collapse of these ice shelves can free up inland ice to move into the ocean, raising global sea levels and harming coastal communities.”

Andrew Freedman reports for the Washington Post January 21, 2021.