Whether it is a matter of climate change, or magma chambers beneath the Antarctic beneath the surface, scientists are concerned at the alarming rate in which Antarctica is losing ice.
Experts monitoring the ice levels have revealed that Antarctica is losing 200 billion tonnes a year of ice.
This is leading to sea levels rising by 0.6mm a year – three times higher than in 2012 when the last assessment of Antarctica was undertaken.
Between 60 and 90 percent of the world’s fresh water is located in Antarctica – the size of Mexico and the United States combined – and if that were to all melt, sea levels would shoot up by almost 61 metres, which would prove catastrophic for billions of people around the world.
However, that process could take centuries but authors of a new study believe sea levels could rise by six inches (15cm) by 2100 – leading to more natural devastations.
Andrew Shepherd, a professor of earth observation at the University of Leeds and the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, says: “Around Brooklyn you get flooding once a year or so, but if you raise sea level by 15 centimetres then that’s going to happen 20 times a year.
Michele Koppes, a glaciologist at the University of British Columbia, added: “This study shows that we’re actually losing more mass along the edges of the ice sheet, where the ice sheet is making contact with the ocean, and that the warming oceans are melting the ice.
“They’re melting the ice at rates that far exceed anything that would change in the air, and these are forces that you can’t reverse easily.”
While some people blame climate change for the rapid melting ice caps, others blame underground heat sources such as volcanoes.
Last year, a project carried out by British-based researchers revealed 91 volcanoes beneath the surface in the west of Antarctica, meaning there are now at least 138 underwater craters in the region.
A remote survey discovered 91 volcanoes ranging in height from 100m to 3,850m in a massive region known as the West Antarctic Rift System.
If the volcanoes are active, they could erupt at any moment, melting vast amounts of ice and contributing to the already worrisome rising sea levels endangering large swathes of coastal populations around the globe.
Another way the Ice Continent could be melting is due to a mantle plume beneath Antarctica.
A mantle plume – the same geothermal phenomena powering the current Mount Kilauea volcano in Hawaii – is a stream of hot rock rising up through the Earth’s mantle and spreading beneath the crust like a mushroom.
Scientists believe a mantle plume exists underneath Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land explaining the well-documented instability and weakness of the ice sheet today.