In a five-year study, researchers compared glaciers in Patagonia and in the Antarctic Peninsula. They found that glaciers in warmer Patagonia moved 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," said lead author Michele Koppes, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
    
"Antarctica is warming up, and as it moves to temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius, the glaciers are all going to start moving faster," said Koppes.
    
"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," she said.
    
"The polar continental margins in particular are hotspots of biodiversity. If you're pumping out that much more sediment into the water, you're changing the aquatic habitat," said Koppes.

With more than four degrees Celsius of warming over the last 50 years, the glaciers are on the brink of a major shift that will see them flowing up to 100 times faster if the climate shifts above zero degrees Celsius.
    
The study was published in the journal Nature.

 

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