Parts of ice shelf in Antarctica melting at 'unprecedented levels'

A new study has discovered that parts of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica are melting at unprecedented levels, thanks to warm water.

The research - carried out over the last four years, includes New Zealand scientists, working to prevent sea level rise.

The Ross Ice Shelf is a floating block of ice, roughly this size of Spain. It's melting from below - at a faster rate than Kiwi scientists expected

"It's melting at the equivalent of 30 metres per year which is an extremely high melt rate for ice anywhere in Antarctica," NIWA marine physicist Dr Mike Williams said.

Williams has discovered that winds are stopping sea ice from forming along parts of the Ross Ice Shelf.

That means the ocean is exposed to the sun - heating up the sea's surface in summer, and melting the ice shelf up to 10 times faster.

"They really play an important role in holding back the bigger ice sheet from essentially sliding into the ocean, and it's that ice that sits on land, that once it slips into the ocean and melts that produces sea level rise," glaciologist Tim Naish said.

Dr Williams said it's a new challenge to include in its modelling.

Naish is hoping governments around the world will work together to help stop the global temperature increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius, and slow the melting.

The problem is an urgent one and to solve it at a global scale we really do need Government leadership on that," he said.

An alarming trend, picked up by New Zealand scientists - monitoring the world's largest ice shelf and its impact on sea levels.