Climate change

Ice shelves shrink fast in Antarctica

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The floating parts of Antarctica's ice sheets have been thinning at increasing rates since the mid-1990s, raising fears of ice-sheet collapse and of accelerating sea-level rise in a warming climate.

Fernando Paolo of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, and his colleagues analysed an 18-year record of observations from three satellite radar missions. They found that the loss of ice-shelf volume increased from about 25 cubic kilometres a year in 1994–2003 to more than 300 cubic kilometres each year in 2003–2012.

This thinning has been most drastic in West Antarctica, where some floating shelves have lost almost one-fifth of their thickness in 18 years. If they continue to thin at current rates, these ice shelves will completely disappear within a century.

Science (2015)

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