In what is called a first-of-its-kind study, an international team led by Eric Rignot of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory found Antarctica's ice loss rate is nearly as great as that observed in Greenland.
Rignot said the loss is mostly a result of warmer ocean waters that bathe the buttressing floating sections of glaciers, causing them to thin or collapse. "Changes in Antarctic glacier flow are having a significant, if not dominant, impact on the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet," he said.
Rignot said the increased contribution of Antarctica to global sea level rise indicated by the study warrants closer monitoring.
Other organizations participating in the NASA-funded study were the University of California-Irvine; Centro de Estudios Cientificos of Valdivia, Chile; the University of Bristol; the United Kingdom Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research; Utrecht University; the University of Missouri; and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
The research appears in February's issue of Nature Geoscience.
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