The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'
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
Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.
Judge Blocks Oil and Gas Drilling on 300,000 Acres in Wyoming Until Government Considers Climate Impacts
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.