Research confirms thinning of ice sheets in West Antarctica


Research team at University of Leeds has revealed that ice sheet in Antarctica is dwindling up to 122 meters. The team has recorded rapid changes in ocean melting of West Antarctica. As a consequence, researchers have drawn attention to a grave imbalance, glaciers are losing more mass through iceberg calving and melting, than by gaining through snowfall.

In order to study glacier thinning, the team allegedly used altimeter measurements from European Space Agency satellite and UK Center for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM), a model of regional climate helped in tracking the changes in snow and ice cover.

Furthermore, the team has also shed light on the fact that the pattern of thinning has not been static. The thinning has allegedly spread across 24% of West Antarctica and over its largest ice streams, the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, which constitutes a majority. This pattern of thinning has been observed since 1992, and in comparison, the glacier are thinning five times faster than at the start of survey.

“Knowing how much snow has fallen has really helped us to detect the underlying change in glacier ice within the satellite record. We can see clearly now that a wave of thinning has spread rapidly across some of Antarctica’s most vulnerable glaciers, and their losses are driving up sea levels around the planet,” recorded in a statement Professor Andy Shepherd from University of Leeds. “Altogether, ice losses from East and West Antarctica have contributed 4.6 mm to global sea level rise since 1992.” Professor Shepherd is known to have contributed as a leader to the study of glaciers.

The team has allegedly used up to 800 million measurements of the height of Antarctica sheets recorded by the ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat, and CryoSat-2 satellite altimeter missions between 1992 and 2017 and have referred to simulations of snowfall from the same time period produced by RACMO regional climate model.

The research team recorded fluctuations in snowfall that led to the imbalance of ice sheets. The irregularities in the snowfall pattern affected the small changes in height of ice sheets in large areas of the glacier. The measurements recorded by the team allowed to observe changes in the ice sheet height to be separated into those caused due to weather patterns and those due to long term changes on climate, such as increasing ocean temperatures, that causes depletion of ice.

“In parts of Antarctica the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts, and so we set out to show how much was due to changes in climate and how much was due to weather,” Professor Shepherd added.

The research study has been published on May, 16 in Geophysical Research Letters.