Friday, November 27, 2009

New Satellite Data Contradict Antarctic Ice Loss Assumptions

Update: SkepticalScience puts some additional context on the new results:
East Antarctica is now losing ice

Original post:
A paper published online this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, "Accelerated Antarctic ice loss from satellite gravity measurements", shows increased rates of ice reduction in Antarctica. The data from the GRACE satellite confirmed earlier indications of ice loss in West Antarctica at the rate of 132 gigatonnes of ice per year. More surprising, however, was the result that East Antarctica, which had been considered stable, is also losing ice mass. The rate of decline in East Antarctica is estimated at 57 gigatonnes a year. The estimates, based on satellite data from 2002 to 2009, show the maximum loss rates in coastal areas.

Lead author Jianli Chen of the University of Texas Center for Space Research said:
While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica, we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate. But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the state of East Antarctica has changed. Since it's the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact on global sea level rise in the future.
Image (click to enlarge): GRACE estimate of Antarctic ice loss, from University of Texas at Austin Center for Space Research

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