ESA’s satellite shows Antarctica’s ice loss on the rise

Washington, Dec. 11: Three years of observations by ESA’s CryoSat satellite show that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing over 150 cubic kilometres of ice each year- considerably more than when last surveyed.

Dr. Malcolm McMillan from the University of Leeds, UK, said they found that ice thinning continues to be most pronounced along fast-flowing ice streams of this sector and their tributaries, with thinning rates of between 4-8 m per year near to the grounding lines- where the ice streams lift up off the land and begin to float out over the ocean- of the Pine Island, Thwaites and Smith Glaciers.

Melting of ice sheets that blanket Antarctica and Greenland is a major contributor to global sea-level rise.

An international team of polar scientists had recently concluded that West Antarctica caused global sea levels to rise by 0.28 mm each year between 2005 and 2010, based on observations from 10 different satellite missions. But the latest research from CryoSat suggested that the sea level contribution from this area is now 15 percent higher.

Launched in 2010, CryoSat carries a radar altimeter that can ‘see’ through clouds and in the dark, providing continuous measurements over areas like Antarctica that are prone to bad weather and long periods of darkness.

Lead researcher Andrew Shepherd said that part of the increase of ice loss could be due to faster thinning, but that part of it may also be down to CryoSat’s capacity to observe previously unseen terrain.

The study was presented at the American Geophysical Union’s autumn meeting in San Francisco, California. (ANI)