A new study by University of Columbia said as melting glaciers erode the land, global warming could alter the shape of the planet.
“Antarctica is warming up, and as it moves to temperatures above 0-degrees celsius, the glaciers are all going to start moving faster,” said study lead author Michele Koppes, assistant professor at University of British Columbia.
“We are already seeing that the ice sheets are starting to move faster and should become more erosive, digging deeper valleys and shedding more sediment into the oceans,” Koppes noted.
The study said the repercussions of this erosion add to the already complex effects of climate change in the polar regions. Faster moving glaciers deposit more sediment in downstream basins and on the continental shelves, potentially impacting fisheries, dams and access to clean freshwater in mountain communities, the study noted.
When the researchers compared glaciers in Patagonia and in the Antarctic Peninsula over a period of five years, they found that glaciers in warmer Patagonia moved even faster and caused more erosion than those in Antarctica, as warmer temperatures and melting ice helped lubricate the bed of the glaciers.
“We found that glaciers erode 100 to 1,000 times faster in Patagonia than they do in Antarctica,” Koppes said. The new findings appeared in the journal Nature.