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The ice sheets near Earth's poles have been constantly shrinking for the past 20,000 years.
Or at least, that's what scientists used to think.
Data - Years - West - Antarctic - Ice
Surprising new data suggests that between 14,500 and 9,000 years ago, the West Antarctic ice sheet partially melted and shrunk to a size even smaller than today.
But instead of collapsing, it began to regrow over the subsequent millennia.
Mechanism - Sheet - Regrowth - Today - Ice
Unfortunately, the mechanism behind the ice sheet's regrowth probably won't work fast enough to save today's ice sheets from melting and causing seas to rise, scientists claim.
However, the findings could help to refine predictions about how today's warming climate will impact polar ice and sea-level rise.
Scientists - Loss - Amount - Ice - Seabed
Scientists believe the loss of the massive amount of ice that was previously weighing down the seabed created uplift in the sea floor in a process known as 'isostatic rebound'.
'The WAIS [West Antarctic Ice Sheet] today is again retreating, but there was a time since the last Ice Age when the ice sheet was even smaller than it is now, yet it didn't collapse,' said Northern Illinois University geology professor Reed Scherer, a lead author on the study.
Information - Ice - Sheet - Future
'That's important information to have as we try to figure out how the ice sheet will behave in the future.'
Don't count on isostatic rebound, however, to be a panacea for modern-day rising sea level, he added.
Years - Carbon - World - Oceans - Regions
'What happened roughly 10,000 years ago might not dictate where we're going in our carbon dioxide-enhanced world, where the oceans are rapidly warming in the polar regions.
'If the ice sheet were to dramatically retreat now, triggered by anthropogenic warming, the uplift process won't help regrow the ice sheet until long after coastal cities have felt the effects of the sea level rise.'
Professor - Scherer - Authors - Study - Jonathan
Professor Scherer is one of three lead authors on the study, along with Jonathan Kingslake of Columbia...
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