Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'

Climate
The Vanderford glacier in East Antarctica is one of four that is beginning to melt, according to NASA. Angela Wylie / Fairfax Media / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.


"That's the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice," Catherine Walker from Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who presented the new findings at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Monday, told BBC News.

The observations were enabled by maps of the height and velocity of East Antarctic glaciers made possible by a new NASA project called Inter-mission Time Series of Land Ice Velocity and Elevation (ITS_LIVE). Using these maps, Walker discovered that the surface height of four glaciers in Vincennes Bay—Vanderford Glacier, Adams Glacier, Bond Glacier and Underwood Glacier—had decreased by around nine feet since 2008. Before that, there was no noticeable change, NASA explained in a press release.

The four glaciers are all west of Totten Glacier, the one East Antarctic glacier that scientists had studied in depth. It has also been retreating in recent years and contains enough ice to raise sea levels by 11 feet.

"Totten is the biggest glacier in East Antarctica, so it attracts most of the research focus," Walker said in the NASA release. "But once you start asking what else is happening in this region, it turns out that other nearby glaciers are responding in a similar way to Totten."

A map produced by Alex Gardner, showing the increased velocity of glaciers in East Antarctica using data from an early iteration of NASA MEaSUREs ITS_LIVE project.NASA Earth Observatory / Joshua Stevens

Walker and her team also noted changes in a group of glaciers farther east along the Wilkes Land coast. They are now lowering at twice the rate they did in 2009, to the tune of about 0.8 feet per year.

In addition to the new ice maps, Walker also used an inventive method to assess ocean temperatures in the area to confirm that warmer water was behind the glaciers' movements. She tagged marine mammals with sensors and compared the measurements with models to determine that changes in wind and sea ice were indeed conspiring to bring more warm ocean water to the Wilkes Land and Vincennes Bay glaciers.

Her NASA colleague Alex Gardner said that more findings like this were likely as projects like ITS_LIVE expand. In 2019, ITS_LIVE researchers will start a massive effort to track the world's ice, including a 30-year-database of satellite observations of surface elevation and a five-year record of ice velocity.

"I think we can anticipate that over the next five to 10 years, we're going to have a lot of observationally driven discoveries, such as what Catherine is making, because of the new data that's coming online," Gardner told BBC News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Women walk from Santa Monica beach after a social media workout on the sand on May 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.

Read More Show Less
Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans and others who suffer from PTSD. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Arash Javanbakht

For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.

Read More Show Less
Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.

Read More Show Less
NASA is advancing tools like this supercomputer model that created this simulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to better understand what will happen to Earth's climate if the land and ocean can no longer absorb nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 emissions. NASA/GSFC

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

Read More Show Less
A child stands in what is left of his house in Utuado, Puerto Rico, which was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, on Oct. 12, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios. Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
Read More Show Less
President Trump's claim last September that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama's gulf coast was quickly refuted by employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An independent investigation found that NOAA's chief violated the agency's ethics when he backed Trump's warning and doctored map that used a Sharpie to alter the storm's path, as EcoWatch reported.
Read More Show Less

Trending

African bush elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve in Botswana on Nov. 22, 2016. Michael Jansen / Flickr

More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.

Read More Show Less