Antarctica is undergoing some major changes that are completely reinventing the coastal regions of the icy continent. The ocean water surrounding Antarctica is growing less salty, in addition to simply melting away. The concern is real, according to scientists, who believe that after completing the first real survey of the region in the history of Earth that real answers can finally be unearthed.

The waters surrounding Antarctica have warmed for the last 40 years consecutively, and scientists believe that is due to the warming of the ocean currents that are far below the ocean surface. Studies have found that due to the warming waters below the surface – the ice shelves are melting at a more expedited rate and even account for more than half of the total melting in the region. The scientists pointed out that even just “a half-degree rise in water temperature close to a big ice shelf can melt the ice significantly faster than raising the air temperature.”

Even more interesting is the fact that shallow waters are the waters that are losing ice shelves most quickly. However, the same scientists were quick to point out that even 40 years ago when the analysis of some of the warmest waters in Antarctica – they found that those very waters were warmest then, as well, and appeared to be warming up at a speed that wasn’t seen before by scientists. They didn’t then, and still don’t actually understand why the warming happened then, but now have a better idea as to why the waters are warming so quickly now.

However, as the temperature of the water is warming regularly throughout the last 40 years – scientists were quick to note that the seasonal ice that forms in the winter is quickly reforming at a faster rate, and doing so more thoroughly each year – even with the warming of the waters from the current. Scientists did also note that the eastern portion of Antarctica isn’t susceptible to the type of undercurrent warming that the western portion is due to the coastal current that blocks the coast, and protects the immediate ice shelves that would be at jeopardy.