Scientists have known for some time that ice loss in this region is caused by ocean-driven melt, and that varying winds in the region cause transitions between relatively warm and cool ocean conditions around key glaciers.
However, until now it was not clear how these naturally-occurring variations in the winds could cause ongoing ice loss.
Lead author, Professor Paul Holland from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), says: “The impact of human-induced climate change on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is not simple.
This is the first evidence for a direct link between human activities and the loss of ice from West Antarctica.
Our results imply that a combination of human activity and natural climate variations have caused ice loss in this region, accounting for around 4.5 cm of sea-level rise per century.”
We have known for some time that varying winds near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have contributed to the ice loss, but it has not been clear why the ice sheet is changing now.
West Antarctic ice loss influenced by anthropogenic forcing and internal climate variability is published by Paul R. Holland, Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Pierre Dutrieux, Adrian Jenkins and Eric J. Steig in the journal Nature Geoscience.