Due to global warming, zonal winds from all over the globe are experiencing a shift around Antarctica. The fact that the westerly winds that facilitate warmer ocean water to seep below the thick ice sheet have been more and more frequent in the last century leads to the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which, in turn, leads to an increase of the sea level. The British Antarctic Survey observed the phenomenon, and the findings had been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The warming western winds are the result of the contrasting temperatures all over the world as the tropics are being warmed too fast and the pole regions are not. At the same time, the ocean is getting warmer, also because of the western winds, while the air above the Antarctic continent is much colder. Apparently, ocean melting is much stronger than the cold air, which leads to the drain of Antarctica’s ice sheets from the center into the ice shelves at the ocean.
Global warming leads to the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
West Antarctica, which is considered a large peninsula, is generally covered by a thick ice sheet that can reach more than a mile in some places. The melting of this ice sheet would mean that the sea level on the entire planet is going to rise with at least 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm) by the end of this century.
The increase of the greenhouse gas emissions will see a continuous shift of winds; a constant change leads to a more rapid melt of the ice. In the last years, more and more ice sheet edges have been collapsing, an example being the Larsen B Ice Shelf. If things are going to continue in the same manner, researchers warn that a catastrophe can happen as more ice sheet edges will fall apart and melt. This could lead to an increase in sea levels by 3 feet (almost 1 meter). An increase of the sea levels would mean that entire communities and cities will be forced to leave their homes or to build seawalls against the rising waters.