Global Warming: Antarctica Thaws Fast, Melting a Whopping 159B Tons of Ice Annually

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 20, 2014 11:01 AM EST

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, scientists said on May 12, 2014. Six glaciers including the Thwaites Glacier, eaten away from below by a warming of sea waters around the frozen continent, were flowing fast into the Amundsen Sea, according to the report based partly on satellite radar measurements from 1992 to 2011. REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters
The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, scientists said on May 12, 2014. Six glaciers including the Thwaites Glacier, eaten away from below by a warming of sea waters around the frozen continent, were flowing fast into the Amundsen Sea, according to the report based partly on satellite radar measurements from 1992 to 2011. REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters

Antarctica is reportedly thawing fast at a whopping 159 billion tons of melted ice annually, according to a new study.

The melted ice volume has turned water pushing the global sea levels to rise by as much as 0.43 mm a year, based on a new research published in Geophysical Research Letters. The study based its data from images captured (here) by the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 Satellite mission, which uses a radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the ice sheet.

Overall, the West Antarctica lost 134 gigatons of ice, East Antarctica three gigatons, and the Antarctic Peninsula 23 gigatons per year between 2010 and 2013, the study said.

Antarctica is the planet's largest frozen mass holding 90 percent of the earth's ice.

"CryoSat has given us a new understanding of how Antarctica has changed over the last three years and allowed us to survey almost the entire continent," Dr. Malcolm McMillan of the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at Leeds University, UK and study lead author, told BBC.

Glaciers are the recent signs used by scientists to prove the melting the earth's icy regions were accelerating. Scientists believed unless global greenhouse gas emissions are reined in, majestic glaciers will continue to melt to the point of no return.

"It's possibly the best evidence of real global impact of warming," Theodore Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, was quoted by NY Times.

The average rate of thinning ice in West Antarctica has also gotten bigger, according to the study.

The sector is now shedding almost 31 percent of ice annually compared to the five-year period (2005-10) before CryoSat-2 was launched.

"We find that ice losses continue to be most pronounced along the fast-flowing ice streams of the Amundsen Sea sector, with thinning rates of between 4 and 8 metres per year near to the grounding lines of the Pine Island, Thwaites, and Smith Glaciers," McMillan said.

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The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, scientists said on May 12, 2014. Six glaciers including the Thwaites Glacier, eaten away from below by a warming of sea waters around the frozen continent, were flowing fast into the Amundsen Sea, according to the report based partly on satellite radar measurements from 1992 to 2011. REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters
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