Mass loss in East Antarctic

Posted by World

The East Antarctic ice sheet has been losing mass for the last three years, according to an analysis of data from a gravity-measuring satellite mission. The scientists involved say they are surprised by the finding, because the giant East Antarctic sheet, unlike the west, has been thought to be stable. Other scientists say ice loss could not yet be pinned on climate change, and uncertainties in the data are large. The US-based team reports its findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The data comes from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission. Grace has previously shown that the smaller West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing mass. These two bodies of ice contain enough water to raise sea levels by about six to seven metres (20ft) each if they melted completely. Melting the East Antarctic sheet would raise sea levels by much more - about 50-60m. But scientists have generally discounted the possibility of it happening because the region is so cold.

The Grace measurements suggest there was no net ice loss between 2002 and 2006. But since then, East Antarctica has been losing 57 billion tonnes (Gt) per year. The study leader Jianli Chen said that all of us were surprised to see this change in East Antarctica.


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