Shackleton Centenary Expedition

Antarctic Ice loss April 16 2008

Antarctic ice loss (NASA).jpg

Antarctic ice loss between 1996 and 2006, overlaid on a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) mosaic image of Antarctica. The colors indicate the speed of the ice loss. Purple/red is fast. Green is slow. Image credit: NASA

Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers and is now nearly as great as that observed in Greenland, according to a new, comprehensive study by NASA and university scientists.

In a first-of-its-kind study, an international team led by Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the University of California, Irvine, estimated changes in Antarctica's ice mass between 1996 and 2006 and mapped patterns of ice loss on a glacier-by-glacier basis. They detected a sharp jump in Antarctica's ice loss, from enough ice to raise global sea level by 0.3 millimeters (.01 inches) a year in 1996, to 0.5 millimeters (.02 inches) a year in 2006.

Rignot said the losses, which were primarily concentrated in West Antarctica's Pine Island Bay sector and the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, are caused by ongoing and past acceleration of glaciers into the sea. This is mostly a result of warmer ocean waters, which bathe the buttressing floating sections of glaciers, causing them to thin or collapse. "Changes in Antarctic glacier flow are having a significant, if not dominant, impact on the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet," he said.

To infer the ice sheet's mass, the team measured ice flowing out of Antarctica's drainage basins over 85 percent of its coastline. They used 15 years of satellite radar data from the European Earth Remote Sensing-1 and -2, Canada's Radarsat-1 and Japan's Advanced Land Observing satellites to reveal the pattern of ice sheet motion toward the sea. These results were compared with estimates of snowfall accumulation in Antarctica's interior derived from a regional atmospheric climate model spanning the past quarter century.

We first found out about this story via the guys at sciencedailycom/. The California Institute of Technology at Pasadena who manage the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA issued a press release earlier this year.

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