Kirsty Tinto flies aboard a specially equipped airplane in very cold places to study ice sheets and ice shelves. She’s an associate research scientist in the polar geophysics group at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Up to now, it has been a mystery why much of the fresh water resulting from the melting of Antarctic ice shelves ends up in the depths instead of floating above saltier, denser ocean waters. Scientists working along one major ice shelf believe they have found the answer.
The first of six ALAMO floats parachuted into the Ross Sea off Antarctica to begin profiling the water in a check for areas where warmer than normal water could put the Ross Ice Shelf at risk.
If you have studied the impacts of climate on Antarctica you have encountered Pine Island Glacier. Tucked in at an angle under the West Antarctic Peninsula handle, this seemingly innocuous glacier has been making headlines for years as one of the fastest flowing ice stream glaciers on Earth.
Changes in Antarctic ice have been dominated by the interaction of the ice and the ocean, and because ice shelves extend out into the water they are vulnerable to melt from the warmer ocean water. Melt can affect them in two ways, through thinning along their length and through causing a retreat of the “grounding line.”