NASA launches new maps revealing signs Antarctic glaciers considered stable are melting



[ad_1]

Scientists at NASA have detected signs that large glaciers in Eastern Antarctica are melting.

The eastern half of the continent was previously considered more stable than the west.

But new maps of ice speed and elevation have revealed that a group of glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coastline have been losing ice a decade ago.

The findings are likely to raise fears that melting ice could lead to rising sea levels around the world.

Glaciologists had already warned that Totten glacier, the fastest moving ice mass in eastern Antarctica, was shrinking as a result of ocean water warming.

An illustration released by NASA shows a map of ice speed and altitude that revealed that a group of glaciers covering one-eighth of the coast of Eastern Antarctica have been losing ice for a decade.
An illustration released by NASA shows a map of ice speed and altitude that revealed that a group of glaciers covering one-eighth of the coast of Eastern Antarctica have been losing ice for a decade. (AAP)

The huge glacier contains enough water to raise sea level by about three meters.

"Totten is the largest glacier in eastern Antarctica, so it attracts most of the research focus," said Catherine Walker, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA, who presented the findings at a meeting of the Geophysical Union American. (AGU).

"But it turns out that other nearby glaciers are responding in a similar way to Totten," she added.

Researchers have found that four glaciers west of Totten, in an area facing Vincennes Bay, have dropped to surface height by an average of nearly three meters since 2008 – before that year there were no measured changes in elevation.

An illustration released by NASA shows a map of ice speed and altitude that revealed that a group of glaciers covering one-eighth of the coast of Eastern Antarctica have been losing ice for a decade.
An illustration released by NASA shows a map of ice speed and altitude that revealed that a group of glaciers covering one-eighth of the coast of Eastern Antarctica have been losing ice for a decade. (AAP)

To the east of Totten, glaciers along Wilkes' land coast have nearly doubled their rate of reduction since around 2009, with their surface falling about 0.25 meters each year.

Scientists say the level of ice loss is small compared to the glaciers in West Antarctica, but points to a nascent and widespread shift in the east.

"This change does not seem random, it seems systematic," said Alex Gardner, a glaciologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"And the systematic nature suggests the underlying oceanic influences that were incredibly strong in West Antarctica.

"We may now be finding clear ocean links beginning to influence Eastern Antarctica."

© AAP 2018

[ad_2]

Source link