Scientists have been watching the Antarctic Peninsula melt for decades, but are still just figuring out why.
The prevailing conclusion until recently had been that rising air temperatures were causing the melt.
But it may be the water — warm water, according to research published in this week’s journal Science.
The study by researchers at Swansea University, Durham University and the British Antarctic Survey says that warming in the waters around Antarctica has corresponded with the “widespread acceleration of glacier retreat.” In addition, the melt is worse in the southern region, where some of the waters are relatively warmer, than it is in the cooler water of the northwest region.
Lead author Alison Cook found in a previous study that rising air temperatures alone could not account for the degree of glacier retreat that has been occurring, according to The Washington Post.