Study Details Consequences of Antarctic Ice Melt

    Study Details Consequences of Antarctic Ice Melt
    Last updated May 30, 2023
    Image credit: Unsplash


    • According to a new study, changes to circulation in parts of the Southern Ocean are taking place faster than expected, with potentially negative implications for Earth's broader climate and biodiversity.[1]
    • The new study, which was published [on May 25] in the journal Nature Climate Change, found evidence that at least one area of the Southern Ocean — that regulates the climate and regulates the transfer of heat, carbon, oxygen, and nutrients between ocean layers — is changing faster than previously expected.[2]
    • The study found that overturning circulation near Australia slowed by 30% between 1992 and 2017 and deep ocean oxygen levels in the region are also declining. This slowing circulation is a result of the melting of Antarctic ice disrupting the formation of Antarctic bottom water — making Antarctic surface waters fresher, less dense, and less likely to sink.[2]
    • Antarctic bottom water makes up around half the volume of the global ocean and helps to power "the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt," a vital component of the global ocean nutrient and carbon dioxide cycle.[1]
    • Scientists warn that this slowdown could have drastic environmental impacts — including increasing sea levels, altering global weather patterns, and disrupting vital nutrients for marine ecosystems.[3]


    Establishment-critical narrative

    This slowing circulation is extremely worrying because it shows that there are consequences for this melting Antarctic ice, beyond just rising sea levels. This new study is a warning sign of what potential future changes could occur to crucial ocean cycles as ice melt continues. The global community needs to step up and immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it's too late.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    While the study found a slowing of circulation in the Australian Antarctic Basin, observations don't yet show the same rapid trends occurring in other spots around Antarctica. This finding is concerning, but there's still time to turn things around in line with global attempts to reduce CO2.

    Narrative C

    Despite these latest findings, Antarctic ice melt may yet reverse thanks to natural processes. The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet may not be permanent. Bedrock cores show that ice in Antarctica grew back several thousand years ago after a severe thaw. This evidence suggests that rising landmasses may contribute to slowing glacial melt and sea level rise. There's reason for optimism based on cycles from deep Earth history.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 50% chance that the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf will collapse by Oct. 2026, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split



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