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Report: Antarctic Ice Losses Have Doubled

May 19, 2014 11:33 AM EDT
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Antarctica is reportedly losing 160 billion metric tons of ice a year. Last time the continent was surveyed, it was only losing half that - showing that the "White Continent" is melting faster than anticipated.

According to a report published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, Antarctica's western ice sheet - particularly the vulnerable Amundsen Sea Embayment - continues to undergo massive retreat, with the icy surface melting a whopping nine meters per year in some parts.

These findings were all based on assessments from the CryoSat spacecraft, an orbiting radar unit designed by the European Space Agency specifically to measure the height of the world's ice sheets, according to BBC.

According to the authors of the study, CryoSat has a specially designed radar system that is extremely sensitive to the thinning of ice. The satellite was not only able to determine that the whole of Antarctica's ice sheet is dropping by an average of two centimeters a year, but it was also able to determine that the East Antarctic is actually gaining ice.

The report details how the East Antarctic has seen an unprecedented amount of snowfall, mitigating relatively static ice melt.

However, the vulnerable Western Antarctic is losing more ice than was expected, outpacing the East's gains at an alarming rate. In the Amundsen Sea, six massive glaciers are eroding due to an influx of warm waters caused by a change in wind patterns in the midst of climate change.

This detailed report from CryoSat backs similar reports that claim the unstoppable change in water currents is making a noticeable rise in sea level inevitable.

A recent Nature World News report details how a recent study claims that the stable East Antarctic ice sheet is actually working like a tenuous cork, holding back a significant amount of melt from the other two thirds of the White Continent and posing a delayed-but-inevitable threat to stable sea levels.

As things stand, global sea levels are already rising by nearly half a millimeter per year, according to the CryoSat study.

The study was published in Geophysical Research Letters on May 16.

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