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Arctic Ice Cap Flowing 25 Times Faster into Ocean

Jan 23, 2015 06:19 PM EST
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A remote Arctic ice cap, in the face of warming temperatures and climate change, is now flowing 25 times faster into the ocean compared to 2012, a new study shows.

According to satellite images, the southeast region of Austfonna, located in the Svalbard archipelago, is thinning at an incredible rate. In fact, in the last three years alone the region has thinned by more than 50 meters (164 feet) - about one sixth of its original thickness.

Consequentially, melting is now occurring within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the summit.

"These results provide a clear example of just how quickly ice caps can evolve, and highlight the challenges associated with making projections of their future contribution to sea level rise," study lead author Dr. Mal McMillan, a member of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) team from the University of Leeds, said in a statement.

Researchers reached their conclusions with help from eight satellite missions, including Sentinel-1A and CryoSat.

"New satellites, such as the Sentinel-1A and CryoSat missions, are essential for enabling us to systematically monitor ice caps and ice sheets, and to better understand these remote polar environments," McMillan added.

It's no secret that melting ice caps and glaciers, both in the Arctic and Antarctic, are major contributors to rising seas. They're responsible for about a third of recent global sea level rise. But predicting how much ice loss will occur in the future is difficult, and therefore forecasting how high oceans will rise is also hazy.

"Feeding the results into existing ice flow models may help us to shed light on the cause, and also improve predictions of global ice loss and sea level rise in the future," noted co-author Andrew Shepherd.

The results were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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