Scientists Find Key Culprit in Antarctic Ice Melt
Underwater storms bringing warm water to polar ice: study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2014 5:33 AM CST
This undated handout photo provided by NASA shows the Thwaites Glacier in the West Antarctic.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – Storms aren't just a result of global warming, they may actually be causing the unstoppable Antarctic ice melt. Robots patrolling more than 3,250 feet below the Weddell Sea have discovered underwater storms are helping thaw Antarctic ice as they drive warm water toward polar ice shelves. Essentially, researchers knew warm waters were melting the ice but hadn't a clue how they were getting to it; warmer water is typically found far below the ocean's surface, reports the BBC. Now researchers have zeroed in on the storms, which are made mostly of cold water but carry trapped water from warmer latitudes at their center, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Dolphin-like drones made 750 dives to sample water temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and fluorescence over two months in 2012 to find the storms, or "swirling eddies." But the storms are hard to predict. In fact, "this is our first glimpse at just how variable these currents are," a researcher explains. "Unless you understand how the temperature of currents is changing from day to day ... then you can't understand what the long-term heat transport is." The team will set the robots loose on the Drake Passage in the coming weeks to learn more about the Antarctic ice melt, the Los Angeles Times reports. (Mysteriously, Antarctic ice is also growing.)