Warming waters in the western tropical Pacific Ocean have significantly increased thunderstorms and rainfall, which may affect the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and global sea-level rise, according to a new, National Science Foundation-funded study. Since the mid-1990s, West Antarctica -- a massive ice sheet that sits on land -- has been melting and contributing to global sea level rise. That melting has accelerated this century. Wind and weather patterns play a crucial role in governing the melting: Winds push warm ocean water toward the ice sheet and melt it from below, at the same time as winds bring warm air over the ice sheet surface and melt it from above. The study found that the South Pacific Convergence Zone, a region of the western tropical Pacific, is a major driver of weather variability across West Antarctica.
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