Antarctica’s ice streams flow like giant frozen rivers on the edges of the icy continent. These narrow glaciers already move more quickly than the ice surrounding them, but their flow will speed up even more in response to warming oceans, new research finds.

And this rapid movement could trigger major thinning in the interior of the Antarctic ice sheet, contributing to global sea-level rise, the study warns.

‘It has long been known that narrow glaciers on the edge of the Antarctica act as discrete arteries termed ice streams, draining the interior of the ice sheet,’ a researcher involved in the study Chris Fogwill, of Australia’s University of New South Wales, said in a statement.

‘However, our results have confirmed recent observations suggesting that ocean warming can trigger increased flow of ice through these narrow corridors. This can cause inland sectors of the ice sheet - some larger than the state of Victoria - to become thinner and flow faster,’ Fogwill added.

In the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers analyzed simulations of ice-stream movement to see how it would affect the entire ice sheet. They factored in rising ocean temperatures.

In the simulations, ocean warming […]

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