LASERS beamed from space have revealed that glaciers in the Antarctic and Greenland are melting faster then predicted, climate scientists said yesterday.
The findings are said to be “the most comprehensive picture” yet of the decline, and an important step towards more accurate predictions for sea-level rise.
Analysis of millions of Nasa satellite measurements from both regions’ vast ice sheets shows the most serious ice loss is a result of glaciers speeding up where they flow into the sea.
This “dynamic thinning” of glaciers has intensified on key Antarctic coastlines, and penetrates far inside the ice sheets and is compounded by “ocean-driven melt”.
The work by the University of Bristol and the British Antarctic Survey was published yesterday in the science journal, Nature.
Laura Edwards, one of the authors, said: “This study highlights just how important satellite measurements are for observing change on the scale of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets.
“What we see is that many more glaciers have speeded up than we hadexpected.
“We really need these measurements because we don’t yet understand what the ice sheets are going to do in the future, but we know that they’ll have a big effect on sea level.”
Lead author Dr Hamish Pritchard from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said: “We were surprised to see such a strong pattern of thinning glaciers across such large areas of coastline — it’s widespread and in some cases thinning extends hundreds of kilometres inland.
The scientists compared the rates of change in elevation of both fast-flowing and slow-flowing ice.
In Greenland they studied 111 fast-moving glaciers and found 81 thinning at rates twice that of slow-flowing ice at the same altitude.
In Antarctica some of the fastest thinning glaciers are in West Antarctica.
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