Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Antarctica Lost More Ice in Last 10 Years

By Deborah Zabarenko for Reuters

WASHINGTON - Antarctica lost billions of tons of ice over the last decade, contributing to the rising seas around the world, a climate researcher said on Monday.

The ice melted from two particular parts of the southern continent, according to Eric Rignot and colleagues, who wrote about the phenomenon in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Using satellites to monitor most of Antarctica’s coastline, the scientists estimate that West Antarctica lost 132 billion tons of ice in 2006, compared to about 83 billion tons in 1996. The Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward South America, lost about 60 billion tons in 2006.

To put this in perspective, 4 billion tons of ice would be enough to provide drinking water to the more than 60 million people of the United Kingdom for a year, fellow author Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol said in a statement.

This ice loss is not from the so-called ice sheets that cover the water around the continent. This melting occurred in the glaciers that cover much of the Antarctic land mass, and when that melts, it contributes to sea level rise in a way that sea ice does not.

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