Föhn winds are a type of wind that sweeps across the Antarctic ice fields during the southern hemisphere spring and summer. Scientists from the BAS or British Antarctic Survey recently presented some of the first research about this air movement at a conference in Vienna. As it is, their findings show that this is not good for the continent’s ice shelves.
Specific, Föhn Winds May Affect The Antarctic Ice
Other recent studies show that water flowing through crevasses has a huge influence on creating the cracks that result in ice shelf breakdowns. This new study shows that föhn winds have a clear connection with creating that water.
They do so by melting surface ice into ponds, lakes, and streams that then flow through the crevasses. This increases their rate of melting and deepens the crack along which the ice shelf breaks.
While not a direct cause of the overall global sea-level increase, these ice shelves serve as dams for glaciers on the rocky surface of Antarctica. Without the ice shelves to hold them back, the resulting glacier melting runs directly from land into the ocean. When ice on land becomes water at sea, that does drive the height of sea-level.
“Now that we know how prevalent and spatially extensive these [föhn] winds are, we can look further into the effect they are having on the ice shelf.” Said Jenny Turton, the project’s lead scientist.