NASA researchers found that, surprisingly, the Antarctic ice gains offset losses. The findings are at odds with previous reports including a study carried out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found that the continent is continuously shrinking.
The NASA study, which was published Oct. 30 in the Journal of Glaciology, shows that new interpretation of satellite data may lead to the conclusion that the Antarctic ice sheet benefited from an extra 112 billion tons of ice every year between 1992 and 2001.
On the other hand, the build up slowed down to 82 billion tons of ice per year in the past decade. So, climate scientists believe that the paper does not suggest that climate change stopped. Instead it should make scientific community aware of the shortcomings of current measuring methods.
Study authors cautioned that the ice gain may be halted in a few decades since they do not believe that there would be enough snowfall to keep the pace with warming.
Jay Zwally, senior author of the study and glaciology expert at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, noted that there is another finding that challenges previous studies. The NASA study revealed that the melting in the Antarctic ice sheet does not contribute to global rise of sea levels. Instead Antarctica is actually taking 0.23 mm of sea rise every year.
Yet, there may be some hidden factors that fuel the rise and we do not know yet what those contributors may be.
Scientists are now aware how inaccurate current instruments are when it comes to measuring minor changes in the Antarctic region. Zwally explained that the findings were conflicting only about East Antarctica and inner West Antarctica. The ice losses in other parts of the polar continent are consistent with those of past reports including the IPCC’s.
Scientists learned that Antarctica gains more ice than losing by analyzing the satellite data on ice sheet thickness taken between 1992 and 2008 by a pair of ESA satellites and a NASA satellite. ESA analyzed the ice sheet with radar instruments while NASA analyzed the polar region with laser sensors.
Past measurements revealed ice gains in the East Antarctica, but researchers thought that they may be triggered by more snowfall. Yet, Zwally and his fellow researchers found from historic weather data that ice accumulation in the area decreased in the last three decades.
Image Source: Pixabay
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