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Meltdown: Earth Rapidly Losing Ice Cover Meltdown: Earth Rapidly Losing Ice Cover

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Energy / ENVIRONMENT

Meltdown: Earth Rapidly Losing Ice Cover

Liquified glacial ice in Greenland.(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

photo of Olga Belogolova
February 8, 2012

Glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and Antarctica are losing nearly 150 billion tons of ice each year, contributing to an annual 0.4 millimeter rise in sea levels globally, according to a study done by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“The earth is losing an incredible amount of ice to the oceans annually, and these new results will help us answer important questions in terms of both sea-rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change,” CU-Boulder physics professor John Wahr, who led the study published in the journal Nature, said in a statement.

The research was conducted using satellite measurements made by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment between the years of 2003 and 2010. GRACE, a joint effort of NASA and Germany, calculated that the world’s glaciers and ice caps shed about 39 cubic miles of ice annually. It did not take into account the roughly 80 billion additional tons coming from individual glaciers and ice caps on the outer edges of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. In total, the study found that about 1,000 cubic miles of ice was lost from Greenland, Antarctica, and all of Earth’s glaciers and ice caps from 2003 to 2010 — about eight times the water volume of Lake Erie.

 

Professor Tad Pfeffer of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research noted that it is still not clear how these melting rates will increase and how rapidly glaciers will shrink in the coming years.

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