California, US (BBN)-A new study published in the Journal of Glaciology has concluded that the ice sheet in Antarctica is gaining mass rather than shrinking, which appears to contradict widespread studies.
The authors suggest that widespread snow that has fallen over parts of the continent exceeds melting ice sheets, which suggests that the Antarctic isn’t contributing to rising sea levels, reports the Global News.
With numerous studies concluding that the ice sheet loss in Antarctica is accelerating, this new study is turning heads, particularly in the discussion over climate change.
The authors of the paper used satellite data to measure how much snow had fallen over parts of East Antarctica and West Antarctica.
First, it’s important to note that the study examines data spanning 1992 to 2008.
However, NASA satellite data found that it was around 2008 when Antarctica began to lose significant mass.
In fact, satellite data found that, on average, the continent is losing about 134 billion metric tons of ice per year.
And even more recently, another study- using more recent data- concluded that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting faster than previously believed.
Olga Serienko, a research glaciologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as Princeton University said that the authors “did what they could” with the data used.
“Overall, there are many possible sources of uncertainties,” Serienko said about the satellite data they collected.
“Though they did their best to calibrate.”
Serienko said that the problem with attempting to calculate the melt in Antarctica is that there just isn’t enough data.
Its size, isolation, hostile environment and sheer cost of setting up research stations hamper any attempts to use ground-based research.
Instead, satellite data is used.
But the problem with that is that reliable and accurate data hasn’t been in place until more or less recently, meaning there were large margins of error in the data.
The “sleeping beast”
Antarctica is indeed losing ice, particularly in the West Antarctica.
A study in April 2015- once again using more recent data than the new study- found that between 2003 and 2014, West Antarctic ice loss outpaced the gains in the East Antarctic, clearly contradicting the study using the data from 1992 to 2008.
Speaking about the new study, Serienko said, “My take on it is that the jury is still out on what East Antarctica is doing.
“We need more observations and it needs to be much, much more precise.”
Over the past decade, observations show that the melting in Antarctica, the Arctic and Greenland have risen the oceans by 12mm.
While that may not sound like much, studies are also showing that ice melt is accelerating.
The effects of rising oceans are already being felt in some parts of the Pacific.
Serienko said that the massive continent is quite resilient to change.
However, it will respond, even if it takes a while.
“Because Antarctica is so huge it has resilience to respond,” said Serienko. But it will respond.
“You could think of it as a huge, sleeping beast.”