A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves has recently decreased by as much as 18 percent in certain areas over nearly two decades, providing new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.
Data from nearly two decades of satellite missions have shown that the ice volume decline is accelerating, according to a study published on March 26, 2015, in the journal Science and supported by NASA. Scripps graduate student Fernando Paolo, Scripps glaciologist Helen Amanda Fricker, and oceanographer Laurie Padman of Earth & Space Research (a non-profit institute specializing in oceanography research) constructed a new high-resolution record of ice shelf thickness based on satellite radar altimetry missions of the European Space Agency from 1994 to 2012.
Merging data from three overlapping missions, the researchers identified changes in ice thickness that took place over more than a decade, an advancement over studying data from single missions that only provide snapshots of trends.
“Eighteen percent over the course of 18 years is really a substantial change,” said Paolo. “Overall, we show not only the total ice shelf volume is decreasing, but we see an acceleration in the last decade.”