A team of scientists has come up with a detailed history of mass loss from Antarctica’s ice shelves. They utilized a 25-year record of information from four separate ESA missions, outputs from NASA computer models, and NASA ice speed data. The results show how these ice layers have suffered a loss of around 4,000 gigatons since 1994.
The recent study is significant proof that long-term changes in the Southern Ocean are the reason for permanent Antarctic ice loss. Here is what you need to know.
New Study Shows How Antarctica’s Ice Shelves Changed
Detailed information on Antarctic ice layers is challenging because of their immense size, and the difficulty for researchers to physically approach them. But, satellites can reach closer and allow year-round monitoring. They’re also the only practical way to gather data on Antarctic ice loss routinely.
For the recent study, the team of scientists used data from ESA’s radar satellites that send radio waves to the ground, 20.000 times a second. They can also measure the travel length of those waves.
The result of examining those radar signals is the first-ever investigation of changes in the melt of all Antarctic ice layers. It represents an area of 1.5 million square kilometers (three times larger than California).
“This will allow us to decipher the atmospheric and ocean forces responsible for the changes, and how the meltwater affects the ocean,” explained Helen Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist at the Scripps Oceanography.
The 25-year record showed that a variation around Antarctica exists, but in total, there is more loss than a gain of ice shelf mass. However, the ice shelf loss is not a direct factor to the sea-level rise because ice shelves are already floating. The ice shelves also act as a buffer to help slow the slide of ice layers from land into the water, and when they turn smaller, this effect is lowered. Soon, the researchers will publish other results.
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