Ice Melt In West Antarctica Is Significantly Accelerating, A NASA Study Finds

The acceleration of the ice melting in some parts of western Antarctica could make them unstable.

NASA study reveals ice melt accelerates in some parts of West Antarctica.
karin de mamiel / Thinkstock

The acceleration of the ice melting in some parts of western Antarctica could make them unstable.

A NASA study has revealed that ice melt in some western regions of Antarctica is significantly accelerating. West Antarctica is situated in the Western Hemisphere of the continent including the Antarctic Peninsula. It lies between the Ross Sea and the Wedell Sea that are covered with ice shelves.

The findings published in the journal Cryosphere also described the new modern technology that researchers used in studying the ice melt in Antarctica. NASA and other institutions in the U.S. and Europe conducted the study.

In the study, the scientists examined the data from numerous NASA-U.S. Geological Survey Landsat satellite images that generated high-precision pictures of changes in ice-sheet motion. The innovative technology could gauge the Antarctic ice changes in the future and could also be used to provide ice sheet models and process massive amounts of data rapidly, according to NASA.

Alex Gardner, the lead author of the study and a cryospheric researcher from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said that they are entering a new age.

“When I began working on this project three years ago, there was a single map of ice sheet flow that was made using data collected over 10 years, and it was revolutionary when it was published back in 2011. Now we can map ice flow over nearly the entire continent, every year. With these new data, we can begin to unravel the mechanisms by which the ice flow is speeding up or slowing down in response to changing environmental conditions.”

The scientists discovered that some parts of western Antarctica are undergoing an acceleration of ice loss. This means that every year less ice melts during summer is restored by winter snows, which leaves less ice overall. This process is happening rapidly.

This event is alarming because the study indicated that the ice in the western part of Antarctica is unstable. It could cause massive swaths of “to slip into the sea,” increasing worldwide ocean levels. They noted if the entire western ice sheet melted, the ocean levels will augment as much as three meters.

Moreover, the scientists said that the increase in calving could be problematic. It could place the significant areas of ice at risk of melting, according to