Antarctica Ice Loss Increases

Antarctica is now losing about 160 billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean – twice as much as when the continent was last surveyed.

The new assessment comes from Europe’s Cryosat spacecraft, which has a radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the ice sheet.

The melt loss from the White Continent is sufficient to push up global sea levels by around 0.43mm per year.

Scientists report the data in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The new study incorporates three years of measurements from 2010 to 2013, and updates a synthesis of observations made by other satellites over the period 2005 to 2010.

Cryosat has been using its altimeter to trace changes in the height of the ice sheet – as it gains mass through snowfall, and loses mass through melting.

The study authors divide the continent into three sectors – the West Antarctic, the East Antarctic, and the Antarctic Peninsula, which is the long finger of land reaching up to South America.

Overall, Cryosat finds all three regions to be losing ice, with the average elevation of the full ice sheet falling annually by almost 2cm.

Cryosat’s double antenna configuration allows it to map slopes very effectively

In the three sectors, this equates to losses of 134 billion tonnes, 3 billion tonnes, and 23 billion tonnes of ice per year, respectively.

The East had been gaining ice in the previous study period, boosted by some exceptional snowfall, but it is now seen as broadly static in the new survey.

As expected, it is the western ice sheet that dominates the reductions.

Scientists have long considered it to be the most vulnerable to melting.


What Next?

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post comment.