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Sudden ice loss in Antarctica affecting Earth’s gravitational field

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In a recent research, a team of scientists have published that Antarctica is experiencing a sudden increase in ice loss which is causing small changes in the gravitational field of the Earth. Since 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse have disappeared in the ocean.

“To date, the glaciers added roughly 300 cubic km of water to the ocean. That’s the equivalent of the volume of nearly 350,000 Empire State buildings combined,” a lead study author Bert Wouters at the University of Bristol said.

“The fact that so many glaciers in such a large region suddenly started to lose ice came as a surprise to us. It shows a very fast response of the ice sheet: in just a few years the dynamic regime completely shifted”, added Bert.

The changes were detected by the CryoSat-2 satellite, operated by the European Space Agency.

The ice loss in the region is so large that it is causing small changes in the gravity field of the Earth. Such a change can be detected by another satellite mission, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

In the last two decades, the ice shelves in the region have lost almost one-fifth of their thickness, thereby reducing the resisting force on the glaciers.

“To pinpoint the cause of the changes, more data need to be collected. A detailed knowledge of the geometry of the local ice shelves, the ocean floor topography, ice sheet thickness and glacier flow speeds are crucial to tell how much longer the thinning will continue,” Wouters concluded.

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