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CryoSat detects sudden ice loss in Southern Antarctic Peninsula

22 May 2015

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A recent acceleration in ice loss in a previously stable region of Antarctica has been detected by ESA's ice mission.

The latest findings by a team of scientists from the UK's University of Bristol show that with no sign of warning, multiple glaciers along the Southern Antarctic Peninsula suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean starting in 2009 at a rate of about 60 cubic km each year.

This makes the region one of the largest contributors to sea-level rise in Antarctica, having added about 300 cubic km of water into the ocean in the past six years. Some glaciers along the coastal expanse are currently lowering by as much as four m each year.

Prior to 2009, the 750 km-long Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change.

"It appears that sometime around 2009, the ice-shelf thinning and the subsurface melting of the glaciers passed a critical threshold that triggered the sudden ice loss," said Dr Bert Wouters from the University of Bristol, who led the study.

Source: European Space Agency (ESA)

Image credit: University of Bristol - Map of ice loss on the Southern Antarctic Peninsula

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