Ice Loss in Antarctic Peninsula Unprecedented in 14,000 Years

south shetland islands photo

Scientists reconstructed the ancient climate at Maxwell Bay in the South Shetland Islands. Photo: Barry Thomas via flickr.

In case you wanted another piece of evidence that current melting in Antarctica is really a product of global warming, researchers of the UK's National Oceanography Centre, Southampton say that the widespread loss of glacial ice in the Antarctic Peninsula is unprecedented in the past 14,000 years:You'd have to go back that until "there was a period of climate warming and loss of ice as large and regionally synchronous as that we are now witnessing," Dr Steve Bohaty says.

That conclusion is based on detailed analysis of the thickest Holocene sediment core yet drilled in the Antarctic Peninsula. Radiocarbon dating of which reveals the oldest sediments in the core being 14.1 to 14.8 thousand years old.

There Was Melting 6,000 Years Ago, But Not All at the Same Time
Examination of the core shows a period of rapid glacial retreat 10.1 to 8.2 thousand years ago, followed by a period of warmer water conditions between 8.2 and 5.9 thousand years ago. However, at that time the warming interval doesn't appear to have occurred at the same time throughout the region, with its timing and duration "most likely influenced at different sites by local oceanographic controls, as well as physical geography." After this warming period, the climate cooled over the next 3,000 years.

However, in the past 50 years, the Antarctic Peninsula has already warmed 3-5°C, bringing increased rainfall and the well documented widespread retreat of glaciers.

The results of this research are published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin
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