WORLD> Global General
Antarctica melting faster than expected: scientist
Updated: 2009-07-04 18:50

WELLINGTON: Scientists from New Zealand  have warned that Antarctica is melting faster than expected.

The rate of ice loss was up 75 percent since 1996, and was increasing quickly, Professor Peter Barrett of Victoria University's Antarctic Research Center told the annual Antarctic Conference, held from July 1 to 3 in Auckland.

The loss of glaciers at the edges of Antarctic was causing a sea-level rise of 0.4 mm a year, he added.

Related readings:
 Argentine glacier grows despite global warming
 Ancient ecosystem found under Antarctic glacier
 Researchers scale back forecast of sea level rise
 NYC-sized ice collapses off Antarctica
 Temperature rise may trigger West Antarctic thaw

The global ice loss from Greenland, Antarctica and other glaciers suggested sea levels would rise between 80 cm and 2 m by 2100, Barrett said.

Professor Tim Naish, director of the center, led a team of researchers who drilled deep into the Antarctic rock and discovered ancient records from the last time atmospheric CO2 reached the level it was now approaching.

They found that 3 million to 5 million years ago, seas were warm enough to melt a large chunk of Antarctica's ice when atmospheric CO2 was only slightly higher than today.

Naish said west Antarctica's ice would melt before the larger east Antarctic ice sheet because it sat below sea level and warmed with the ocean.

However, he said the research raised unresolved questions about how much the atmospheric CO2 would need to increase to raise temperatures by 2 celcius degress or more.

CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is now around 387 parts per million (ppm), up from about 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution.