Study: Major Antarctic Ice Loss Could Impact Earth’s Gravity

posted: 05/22/15
by: Danny Clemens
Iceberg in Antartica

Since 2009, glaciers along the Southern Antarctic Peninsula have shed a collective 14 trillion gallons of water per year. According to a new study from University of Bristol, such major losses have the ability to impact the Earth's gravity field.

"The fact that so many glaciers in such a large region suddenly started to lose ice came as a surprise to us," said study lead author Dr. Bert Wouters. "It shows a very fast response of the ice sheet: in just a few years, the dynamic regime completely shifted."

Extreme decreases in the thickness of Antarctic ice have reduced the resisting force on the glaciers. Researchers are especially concerned that much of the remaining Southern Antarctic Peninsula ice is located below sea level, leaving it especially susceptible to warm encroaching sea water.

Wouters and his team utilized the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite to estimate the amount of the glacier's shrinkage. The satellite pings a radar pulse toward the glaciers, which then redirects the pulse back to the satellite. The speed at which the radar pulse travels reflects the changing elevation of the ice.

According to Wouters, the melting has been so extreme and so rapid that it can only be attributed to warming oceans; overall Antarctic climate changes are occurring at a much slower rate than the thinning ice.

The study, "Dynamic thinning of glaciers on the Southern Antarctic Peninsula", is published in the latest edition of Science.

Click here to learn more from University of Bristol

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