That can't be good...By analyzing a 364-meter ice core, researchers have been able to go back in time and track the freezing and melting cycles of Antarctica's peninsula. What they found is rather alarming and adds to the mountain of evidence showing that the chemical experiment we're running with our planet's atmosphere (by pumping billions and billions of of tons of carbon into it) is taking us to dangerous uncharted territory. Dr Nerilie Abram, from the Australian National University and British Antarctic Survey (BAS), describes the findings this way:
"We found that the coolest conditions on the Antarctic peninsula and the lowest amount of summer melt occurred around 600 years ago.
"At that time temperatures were around 1.6C lower than those recorded in the late 20th century and the amount of annual snowfall that melted and refroze was about 0.5%.
"Today, we see almost 10 times as much (5%) of the annual snowfall melting each year.
"Summer melting at the ice core site today is now at a level that is higher than at any other time over the last 1,000 years. And while temperatures at this site increased gradually in phases over many hundreds of years, most of the intensification of melting has happened since the mid-20th century." (source)
This summer ice melt is particularly important not because we expect all the ice to melt, but because it is thought to have a significant impact on the collapse of ice shelves and glaciers. Here's a video of a city-sized glacier collapsing.