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East Antarctic ice shelves melting at surprising pace, study suggests

Breakup of the shelves can accelerate the flow of continental ice to the sea, contributing to sea-level rise, and the Antarctic shelves 'are melting too fast,' the study's lead author says.

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Emperor penguins walk across sea ice near Ross Island, Antarctica. New research finds the frozen continent's ice shelves melting at an alarming rate.

Courtesy Thomas Beer/AP/File

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Several small ice shelves along the East Antarctic coast appear to be melting at surprisingly high rates, some at rates comparable to those of shelves in West Antarctica, long a center of concern over the impact of climate change on the region's vast ice sheet and sea-level rise.

This is an unexpected result of a new study that documents the current status of ice shelves around Antarctica's coastline and the relative influence of the factors melting them.

It's unclear if the unexpected melt rates represent a trend. Conditions off the East Antarctic coast have been less-well studied than those off of West Antarctica, notes Stanley Jacobs, a researcher at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., and a member of the team reporting its results in the current issue of the journal Science.

 
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