NASA: Ice sheet loss at both poles increasing


By Staff, The Space Reporter | November 30, 2012

NASA: Ice sheet loss at both poles increasing

NASA says new study strongly suggests that rate of ice sheet loss is increasing.

A team of researchers supported by NASA and the ESA has compiled data from several satellites and aircraft to generate the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses at both poles and their contributions to sea levels rise, according to the space agency.

The study reveals strong evidence that the rate of ice sheet loss has increased in Greenland and Antarctica during the last 20 years. Nearly 50 researchers from 26 laboratories around the world contributed to the study.

The study finds that these ice sheets are losing more than three times as much ice each year (equivalent to sea level rise of 0.04 inches) as they were in the 1990s (equivalent to 0.01 inches). Researchers note that approximately two-thirds of the loss is coming from Greenland, with the rest from Antarctica.

The rate of ice sheet losses determined by the study falls within the range reported in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Researchers say, however, that their estimates are more than twice as accurate as the IPCC’s estimates because of the addition of more satellite data. Melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica contributed 0.44 inches to global sea levels since 1992. Ice sheet losses account for one-fifth of all sea level rise over the 20-year survey period. Thermal expansion of the warming ocean, melting of mountain glaciers and small Arctic ice caps and groundwater mining account for the rest.

The study combined observations from 10 satellite missions to create an accurate assessment of polar ice sheet changes. By expertly matching observation periods and survey areas, researchers reconciled differences among dozens of earlier ice sheet studies. They also combined measurements obtained by various types of satellite sensors like ESA’s radar missions and NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat).

“What is unique about this effort is that it brought together the key scientists and all of the different methods to estimate ice loss,” said Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager, in a statement. “It’s a major challenge they undertook, involving cutting-edge, difficult research to produce the most rigorous and detailed estimates of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica to date. The results of this study will be invaluable in informing the IPCC as it completes the writing of its Fifth Assessment Report over the next year.”

Study coordinator Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds is confident that the undertaking was a success due to the cooperation of the international scientific community and accuracy of different satellite sensors.

“Without these efforts, we would not be in a position to tell people with confidence how Earth’s ice sheets have changed, and to end the uncertainty that has existed for many years,” Mr. Shepherd said.

The study notes several differences in the pace of ice sheet loss in Antarctica and Greenland.

“Both ice sheets appear to be losing more ice now than 20 years ago, but the pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s,” said Erik Ivins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “In contrast, the overall loss of ice in Antarctica has remained fairly constant, with the data suggesting a 50-percent increase in Antarctic ice loss during the last decade.”

The team’s findings were discussed Thursday in the journal Science.


Have something to say? Let us know in the comments section or send an email to the author. You can share ideas for stories by contacting us here.

Comments
Seven planetary missions receive NASA extensions Seven planetary missions receive NASA extensions
Laurel Kornfeld - Sep 05, 2014

Milky Way part of newly discovered supercluster Milky Way part of newly discovered supercluster
Andrew McDonald - Sep 04, 2014

Life after NASA: Astronauts' careers after returning to Earth Life after NASA: Astronauts' careers after returning to Earth
Andrew McDonald - Sep 03, 2014

ISS to get first ever 3D printer in space ISS to get first ever 3D printer in space
Laurel Kornfeld - Sep 02, 2014

Geckos sent to space in Russian sex experiment return dead Geckos sent to space in Russian sex experiment return dead
Laurel Kornfeld - Sep 02, 2014

New cryotank passes NASA tests New cryotank passes NASA tests
Andrew McDonald - Sep 02, 2014

Mars to be prominent in September evening sky Mars to be prominent in September evening sky
Laurel Kornfeld - Sep 01, 2014

Flash memory on Opportunity rover computer to be reformatted Flash memory on Opportunity rover computer to be reformatted
Laurel Kornfeld - Sep 01, 2014

Early galaxy 'Sparky' was a star factory Early galaxy 'Sparky' was a star factory
Andrew McDonald - Aug 29, 2014

NASA’s “Swarmies” tested for use in space NASA’s “Swarmies” tested for use in space
Andrew McDonald - Aug 29, 2014

ESA observatory catches white dwarf going supernova ESA observatory catches white dwarf going supernova
Andrew McDonald - Aug 29, 2014

Researchers detect neutrinos in the Sun's core Researchers detect neutrinos in the Sun's core
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 29, 2014

Spitzer telescope observes colliding asteroids around young star Spitzer telescope observes colliding asteroids around young star
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 29, 2014

NASA’s Space Launch System moves toward development stage NASA’s Space Launch System moves toward development stage
Andrew McDonald - Aug 27, 2014

Martian rock deemed unsuitable for Curiosity rover's drilling Martian rock deemed unsuitable for Curiosity rover's drilling
Andrew McDonald - Aug 27, 2014

Telescopes capture unprecedented view of early colliding galaxies Telescopes capture unprecedented view of early colliding galaxies
Andrew McDonald - Aug 26, 2014

Five possible landing spots chosen for Rosetta probe Five possible landing spots chosen for Rosetta probe
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 26, 2014

Thigh bone on Mars? NASA weighs in Thigh bone on Mars? NASA weighs in
Ross Cronkrite - Aug 26, 2014

Fermilab experiment questions nature of the universe Fermilab experiment questions nature of the universe
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 26, 2014

NASA may delay commercial contract award after failed SpaceX launch NASA may delay commercial contract award after failed SpaceX launch
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 26, 2014

NASA restores Voyager's historic footage of Neptune's strange moon Triton NASA restores Voyager's historic footage of Neptune's strange moon Triton
Ross Cronkrite - Aug 26, 2014

Pluto-bound probe crosses orbit of Neptune Pluto-bound probe crosses orbit of Neptune
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 25, 2014

SpaceX Falcon 9 flew with 3D-printed component SpaceX Falcon 9 flew with 3D-printed component
Andrew McDonald - Aug 22, 2014

High resolution satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base High resolution satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 22, 2014

Tiny Peruvian satellite released from ISS Tiny Peruvian satellite released from ISS
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 22, 2014

Rare black hole confirmed using light oscillations Rare black hole confirmed using light oscillations
Andrew McDonald - Aug 22, 2014

Russian space official claims plankton grew on exterior of ISS Russian space official claims plankton grew on exterior of ISS
Andrew McDonald - Aug 22, 2014

In ancient star, scientists find material from early universe In ancient star, scientists find material from early universe
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 22, 2014

Boeing meets deadline for designing commercial spacecraft Boeing meets deadline for designing commercial spacecraft
Laurel Kornfeld - Aug 21, 2014