Antarctica is melting all over

No ice build-up in East Antarctica, new study says

Antarctica permafrost
Antarctica is melting all over. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Despite some suggestions that increased has bolstered the vast East Antarctic ice sheet, it appears the frozen continent is still shedding ice and has been a net contributor to sea level rise since at least 2003.

There’s been little doubt during the last decade that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been losing mass, but the picture has been much less clear to the east, where there’s enough ice to raise global sea level by some 50 meters. One study led by NASA researchers in 2015 suggested that this part of Antarctica was gaining so much mass that it compensated for the losses in the west.

But a study led by the University of Bristol and including the University of Wollongong, Australia have now studied the problem by combining different satellite observations within a statistical model that is able to separate the processes related to ice mass changes over the continent.

Professor Jonathan Bamber,  with the Bristol Glaciology Centre, said the new study used NASA data, along with the latest measurements from the gravity measuring GRACE mission to try and solve the overall puzzle of Antarctica ice mass balance.

“We then conducted different experiments, using similar assumptions made in the NASA study but found that in every experiment, mass loss from the west always exceeded gains in the east,” Bamber said.

The researchers concluded that over the study period, 2003-2013, Antarctica, as a whole, has been contributing to sea level rise and that the gains in East Antarctica were around three times smaller than suggested in the 2015 study.

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