Scientists are certain that a massive melting of Antarctica would spell disaster globally. If all of the ice in Antarctica were to melt, the sea levels would increase by an estimated 200 feet. Needless to say this level would destroy life as we know on this planet. Despite the potential impacts of glacial melting in Antarctica, scientists are still attempting to grasp the workings of region, including what is driving melting there.
Studies have been ongoing by numerous groups to map the history of Antarctica’s climate, hoping the past will offer keys to the future. One area of specific interest is the Antarctic Peninsula due to the speed at which the area has warmed. Recently scientists from the British Antarctic Survey analyzed an extensive ice core which offers clues of the past.
The scientists recently published their findings in the journal Nature of the nearly 1200-foot ice core the scientists drilled for on James Ross Island. The core itself was removed in 2008 but studies continue to be performed on the very informative piece of ice. The ice core actually contains approximately 50,000 years worth of data regarding the climate of the region.
Using hydrogen isotopes the team was able to determine that approximately 15,000 to 12,000 years in the past the region in question was warmer than it is currently. Temperatures have increased by about 3 degrees Celsius since 1958 in the area, but during this historical time period the temperature was about 1 degree Celsius more.
However, scientists also determined that the area cooled significantly 2,500 years ago, with temperatures beginning to warm again gradually starting in around 1400 AD. The team found that this gradual warming significantly increased in speed beginning near 1920 AD, warming which is attributed to human actions rather than natural climate variations.