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Antarctic ice shelves rapidly melting

Once-expanding East Antarctica now seeing losses

2:00pm, March 26, 2015
 Venable Ice Shelf

MELTDOWN   Antarctica’s Venable Ice Shelf, shown, is on track to disappear within a century, new research shows.

Antarctica’s ice shelves are shrinking at an accelerating rate, one of the longest satellite records of ice thickness reveals. Researchers report online March 26 in Science that several West Antarctic ice shelves are now on pace to disappear completely within 100 years.

Floating ice shelves mark the outermost edges of an ice sheet and line nearly half the Antarctic coastline. Using ice thickness measurements collected by satellites from 1994 to 2012, glaciologist Fernando Paolo of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., and colleagues analyzed how recent warming has impacted Antarctica’s ice. The researchers discovered that Antarctic ice shelves shrank on average 25 cubic kilometers per year from 1994 to 2003. The melting then accelerated to 310 cubic kilometers — roughly twice the volume of Lake Tahoe — on average per year from 2003 to 2012.

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