Antarctic: Three years of observations from ESA’s CryoSat satellite show that the Antarctic ice sheet is now losing 159 billion tonnes of ice each year – twice as much as when it was last surveyed.
The polar ice sheets are a major contributor to the rise in global sea levels, and these newly measured losses from Antarctica alone are enough to raise global sea levels by 0.45 mm each year. These latest findings by a team of scientists from the UK’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling show that the pattern of imbalance continues to be dominated by glaciers thinning in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica.
Between 2010 and 2013, West Antarctica, East Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula lost 134, 3 and 23 billion tonnes of ice each year, respectively. The average rate of ice thinning in West Antarctica has increased compared to previous measurements, and this area’s yearly loss is now one third more than measured over the five years before CryoSat’s launch.
Launched in 2010, CryoSat carries a radar altimeter that can measure the surface height variation of ice in fine detail, allowing scientists to record changes in its volume with unprecedented accuracy. In particular, newly mapped areas by CryoSat in West Antarctica have now brought altimeter observations closer to estimates based on other approaches.
The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters.