For the third time this month there is bad news about ice melt in Antarctica. This time with consequences we will experience very soon.
However, the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at Leeds University has found that ice loss is happening right now, and at twice the rate estimated using an incomplete version of the same technique.
Previous studies had only been able to map portions of the continent, forcing extrapolations to the whole. Cryosat can penetrate obscuring clouds, allowing the team 96% coverage, leaving out only a small ring around the South Pole. The uncertainty is ±81 billion tonnes.
“We find that ice losses continue to be most pronounced along the fast-flowing ice streams of the Amundsen Sea sector, with thinning rates of between 4 and 8 metres per year near to the grounding lines of the Pine Island, Thwaites and Smith Glaciers,” says first author Dr Malcolm McMillan.
“Although we are fortunate to now have, in CryoSat-2, a routine capability to monitor the polar ice sheets, the increased thinning we have detected in West Antarctica is a worrying development,” says team leader Professor Andrew Shepherd. “It adds concrete evidence that dramatic changes are underway in this part of our planet, which has enough ice to raise global sea levels by more than a metre. The challenge is to use this evidence to test and improve the predictive skill of climate models.”
NASA has provided the following animation to show how warmer waters off the continent lead to glacier retreat.
Photo: Anna Hogg. Researchers at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling conduct research on the Antarctic Ice itself, as well as using satellite data to measure ice loss.
21 May 2014 | 2:39 am – Source: iflscience.com