Satellites track vanishing Antarctic ice | 6/13/2018 | Staff
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Monitoring Antarctica from space has revealed how its ice is being lost to the oceans, providing crucial insight into the continent's response to a warming climate.

Scientists from the University of Leeds, the University of California San Diego and University of Maryland reviewed decades of satellite measurements to reveal how and why Antarctica's glaciers, ice shelves, and sea ice are changing.

Report - Today - Nature - Issue - Antarctica

Their report, published today in Nature's special issue on Antarctica, explains how ice shelf thinning and collapse have triggered an increase in the continent's sea level contribution. It also explains that although the total area of sea ice surrounding Antarctica has shown little overall change during the satellite era, there are signs of a longer-term decline when mid-twentieth century ship-based observations are considered.

Lead author Professor Andrew Shepherd, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, said: "Antarctica is way too big to survey from the ground, and we can only truly understand the trends in its ice cover by looking at the continent from space."

West - Antarctica - Ice - Shelves - Ocean

In West Antarctica, ice shelves are being eaten away by warm ocean water, and those in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas are up to 18 per cent thinner than in the early 1990s. At the Antarctic Peninsula, where air temperatures have risen sharply, ice shelves have collapsed as their surfaces have melted. Altogether, 34,000 km2 of ice shelf area has been lost since the 1950s.

"Although breakup of the ice shelves does not contribute directly to sea-level rise—since ice shelves, like sea ice, are already floating—we now know that these breakups have implications for the inland ice: without the ice shelf to act as a...
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