Environment Counts | Ice Loss in East Antartica
Using gravity measurement data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin has found that the East Antarctic ice sheet – home to about 90 percent of Earth’s solid fresh water and previously considered stable – may have begun to lose ice. The study confirmed previous estimates of ice mass loss in West Antarctica, but also found ice mass loss in East Antarctica, primarily in coastal regions (depicted in light blue).
“While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica, we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate,” said lead author and Senior Research Scientist Jianli Chen of the university’s Center for Space Research. “But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the state of East Antarctica has changed. Since it’s the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact on global sea level rise in the future.”
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., developed the twin Grace satellites. The University of Texas Center for Space Research in Austin has overall Grace mission responsibility. Grace was launched in 2002.