November 23, 2009

East Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting At Alarming Rate

The East Antarctic ice sheet, once unaltered by global warming, has swiftly melted since 2006 and could increase sea levels, says a new study.

Available in a recent issue of Nature Geoscience, the same research indicates that the West Antarctic ice sheet is also melting rapidly.

Scientists are concerned that higher global temperatures could cause a quick collapse of West Antarctica, which has enough frozen water to raise the global ocean watermark by 16 feet.

In 2007 the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) calculated that the sea levels would increase 7.2 to 23.2 inches by 2100, but the approximation did not take into account the possible influence of melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

190 nations are meeting in Copenhagen in December to arrange a global climate plan to fight greenhouse gases.

University of Texas professor Jianli Chen and colleagues reviewed seven years of information over ocean-ice sheet interaction in Antarctica. The information was gathered by the twin GRACE satellites, which identify mass flows in the ocean and polar areas by calculating shifts in Earth's gravity field.

The researchers discovered that West Antarctica poured approximately 132 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually. They also noted that East Antarctica is also melting, specifically in coastal areas.

"Acceleration of ice loss in recent years over the entire continent is thus indicated," the authors wrote. "Antarctica may soon be contributing significantly more to global sea level rise."


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