Antarctic glacier loss triples in just a decade, NASA research shows

The melt rate of glaciers in the fastest-melting part of Antarctica has tripled over the past decade, scientists said. Glaciers in the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica are losing ice faster than other parts of Antarctica and are the biggest contributor to rising sea levels, said researchers at the University of California at Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Research published in May concluded the melting of glaciers in West Antarctica, which contain enough water to raise sea levels by at least a metre, is speeding up and seems irreversible.

The mass loss of these glaciers is increasing at an amazing rate.

Scientist Isabella Velicogna, jointly of UCI and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The study is the first to assess and reconcile observations from four different measurement techniques so as to generate an authoritative estimate of the amount and the rate of loss over the last two decades, said the researchers. Their work will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters dated December 5. The measurements were carried out by radar and satellites belonging to NASA and the European Space Agency, and with the atmospheric climate model developed by the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Previous studies suggested this region is starting to change very dramatically since the 1990s, and we wanted to see how all the different techniques compared. The remarkable agreement among the techniques gave us confidence that we are getting this right.

Study’s lead author Tyler Utterley, of UCI