A NASA study, based on an innovative technique to analyze satellite data, provides the most accurate measurements in the meltdown of Antarctic ice in the ocean. Accordingly, NASA discovered that Antarctica is melting faster than believed.
The computer technology used by NASA in this study processed hundreds of thousands of data and images from the Landsat satellite of the US Geological Service, to produce a high-precision map with the changes in the meltdown of the ice sheet.
The new work provides a baseline for the future measurement of changes in the Antarctic ice and can be used to validate numerical models of ice sheets that are necessary to perform sea level projections.
It also opens the door to faster processing of large amounts of data, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Antarctica is melting faster than expected
The study, which was published in the magazine “The Cryosphere”, also identified the fastest acceleration of the Antarctic glaciers meltdown during the seven-year study period.
The glaciers that feed Marguerite Bay, in the western Antarctic Peninsula, increased their flow rate between 1,300 and 2,600 ft, probably in response to ocean warming.
However, perhaps the greatest discovery of the research team was the steady flow of the eastern Antarctic ice sheet. During the study period, from 2008 to 2015, this layer had no change in its ice discharge rate (the flow of ice to the ocean).
Although previous research inferred a high level of stability for the ice sheet, based on volume measurements and gravitational changes, the lack of any significant change in ice discharge was never measured directly.
The study also confirmed that the flow of the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers from West Antarctica into the ocean continues to accelerate, although the rate of acceleration is slowing.
NASA discovered that Antarctica is melting at 1,929 gigatons per year and that in 2015. That represents an increase of 36 gigatons per year, plus or minus 15, since 2008. One gigaton is one billion tons.