Researcher Liz Thomas is pictured measuring a newly drilled ice core in Antarctica. Photo by British Antarctic Survey
April 9 (UPI) -- Over the last two centuries, Antarctica has experienced a 10 percent increase in snowfall, according to new analysis of Antarctic ice cores.
Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey determined the southern continent accumulated 272 gigatons of water -- in the form of snow -- over the last 200 years.
Ice core scientist Liz Thomas is set to present the findings of the recent ice core survey at this week's European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria. The findings could alter sea level rise models.
"There is an urgent need to understand the contribution of Antarctic ice to sea-level rise and we use a number of techniques to determine the balance between snowfall and ice loss," Thomas said in a news release. "When ice loss is not replenished by snowfall then sea level rises."
While satellite pictures allow for historical analysis going back 20 years, ice core analysis can help scientists reconstruct a timeline of snowfall accumulation stretching back several hundred years.
"Our new results show a significant change in the surface mass balance -- from snowfall -- during the twentieth century," Thomas said. "The largest contribution is from the Antarctic Peninsula, where the annual average snowfall during the first decade of the 21st century is 10 percent higher than at the same period in the 19th century."
Researchers say the new findings don't contradict or negate the observations of significant melting and glacial retreat in West Antarctica, where ice loss has been credited with 14 percent of global sea-level rise.
Still, Thomas and her colleagues believe the latest research will help scientists make more accurate sea level rise predictions moving forward.
"We know that the two major influencers affecting change -- the mass gain from snowfall and the mass loss from melting -- are acting differently from one another," she said. "Our new findings take us a step towards improving our knowledge and understanding."