Jan 20, 2019 | Updated: 08:39 AM EST

Antarctica’s Larsen-C Ice Shelf Crack Rapid Melting Discovered To Be Caused By Warm Föhn Winds

Apr 26, 2017 02:41 PM EDT


After Antarctica’s Larsen A and B had cracked, its Larsen-C ice shelf was reported to be on the verge of break away as well. A study then discovered that another probable reason for Antarctica’s ice shelf crack melting aside from climate change is the warm winds called föhn.

According to UPI, a study presented by some British Antarctic Survey scientists stated that föhn or foehn winds are likely the reason why Antarctica’s Larsen-C ice shelf crack’s melting speeds up aside from the climate. It was mentioned by the scientists that föhn winds occur frequently than what they previously thought.

Föhn winds were described to be warm, dry downhill winds that blow at the leeward side of mountains. Ph.D. student and lead scientist on this project from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Leeds University, Jenny Turton stated that the föhn winds contributing to Antarctica’s Larsen-C ice shelf were a surprise since it only occurs 65% of the time during the spring and summer.

However, Turton explained that föhn events occur as early as September (three months earlier than the start of the summer melt season) as they detected it on Antarctica’s Larsen-C ice shelf. “This is important, as melting during summer and re-freezing during winter weakens the ice surface, and makes it more at risk of melting again the following season,” she added per Science Daily.

It was noted that the combination of climate change melting Antarctica’s Larsen-C ice shelf during summer and the unprecedented fohn winds contribute on its melting compared to the days without föhn winds. The collapse of Antarctica’s Larsen A and Larsen B ice shelves were believed by some scientists to be caused by föhn winds’ melting the flowing water as well.

Nonetheless, Turton concluded that just by knowing that föhn winds are prevalent, they could now look further into its impact on the ice shelves. The discovery on föhn winds affecting Antarctica’s Larsen-C ice shelf was presented by the researchers last Tuesday at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

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