Antarctic surface ice melt could be a sign of things to come

An area of Antarctica larger than Texas partially melted last year, a group of international researchers has found.

And while it's pretty well known ice at both poles has been melting for a while now, this ice is a bit different. In this case, it was surface ice the scientists were monitoring, not sea ice.

The melting was likely caused by a strong El Niño, something scientists expect will become more common as the climate continues to warm.

8 PHOTOS
"Blood Falls" in Antarctica
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"Blood Falls" in Antarctica
Photo: National Science Foundation
General view of the Blood Falls and the Taylor Glacier while in flight during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Antarctica, November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool
The Taylor Glacier is seen in this aerial view while in flight during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Antarctica, November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flies over the Taylor Glacier area near McMurdo Station, in Antarctica, November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool
Mount St. Helens emits a plume of steam and ash October 1, 2004, from an area of new crevasses in the crater glacier south of the 1980-86 lava dome. The event lasted approximately 25 minutes and created a pale-gray cloud that reached an altitude of almost 10000 ft. The image was taken at an altitude of 27,000 ft aboard a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion aircraft assigned to the "Screaming Eagles" of Patrol Squadron One (VP-1) stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington. Mount St. Helens spewed more steam and ash Monday, raising concerns about a larger eruption at the Washington state volcano that woke last week after 18 years of slumber. Picture taken October 1, 2004 and released October 5, 2004. EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Scott Taylor HB/
TOPSHOT - This general view shows an aerial view of the Taylor Glacier near McMurdo Station on November 11, 2016 while in flight during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Antarctica. Kerry is travelling to Antarctica, New Zealand, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and will attend the APEC summit in Peru later in the month. / AFP / POOL / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This general view shows an aerial view of Blood Falls and the Taylor Glacier near McMurdo Station on November 11, 2016 while in flight during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Antarctica. Kerry is travelling to Antarctica, New Zealand, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and will attend the APEC summit in Peru later in the month. / AFP / POOL / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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SEE MORE: Climate Change Is Melting The Arctic Ice Out From Under Our Buildings

Normally, strong westerly winds keep El Niño's warm weather away from the continent, so the melt that it causes isn't as bad. But one member of the research team said El Niños seem to be winning the "tug of war" between westerly winds and warmer air.

And combining more frequent air driven warming from above and ocean driven melting from below could spell bad news for those living on the coast. The West Antarctic ice sheet has the potential to raise the sea level by over 10 feet if it were to collapse or fracture.

This time the melting didn't do any permanent damage. But the scientists are worried it could be a sign of things to come.

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