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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.
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Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust
By Fran Korten
On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.
70 Arrested at Extinction Rebellion Protest Demanding More Urgent Climate Coverage From New York Times
By Irene Banos Ruiz
Alarming headlines regarding the climate crisis often overshadow positive actions taken by citizens around the world, but that doesn't mean they're not happening.
They are, and sometimes with considerable success. DW looks at some civil society victories.
Oregon republicans fled their state rather than do anything to stop the climate crisis. The state republicans abrogated their duties as elected officials and ran away since they don't have the votes to stop a landmark bill that would make Oregon the second state to adopt a cap-and-trade program to curb greenhouse gas emissions, as Vice News reported.