A new analysis of temperature records indicates that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming nearly twice as fast as previously thought.US researchers say they found the first evidence of warming during the southern hemisphere's summer months.
They are worried that the increased melting of ice as a result of warmer temperatures could contribute to sea-level rise.The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The scientists compiled data from records kept at Byrd station, established by the US in the mid-1950s and located towards the centre of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS).Previously scientists were unable to draw any conclusions from the Byrd data as the records were incomplete.
The new work used a computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method to fill in the missing observations.The results indicate an increase of 2.4C in average annual temperature between 1958 and 2010.
"What we're seeing is one of the strongest warming signals on Earth," says Andrew Monaghan, a co-author and scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research.
"This is the first time we've been able to determine that there's warming going on during the summer season." he added.