A 20 metre-high ice cliff forming the edge of the Wilkins Ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula is seen from a planeScientists explain why sea ice around Antarctica is becoming thicker despite the rise in global temperatures in a new study published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

During the summer months, ice sheets melt and cause upwelling of fresh water. This water floats on top of the warmer salty water in the form of a thin cool layer, according to Richard Bintanja, lead author of the study at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

When temperatures drop below zero degrees Celsius, this melt water freezes, causing the ice that is formed to extend over areas larger than Antarctica’s land area.

Regardless of these new findings, a scientist, who researched the question- Paul Holland of the British Antarctic Survey, still stands behind his findings that the reason for thicker ice is the shift in winds due to climate change, blowing the melt water towards Antarctica. He does not reject the new study by Bintanja, however he states that probably the combination of the two would be the most reasonable explanation, with winds having the higher contribution.

In the study by Bintanja et al., the team points out that cool sea surface temperature will influence the snowfall over Antarctica and therefore it will affect sea level rise predictions. The authors indicate that Antarctica is losing as much as 250 billion metric tons of ice a year, which equals to 0,07 millimeters of sea level rise a year.

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