Earlier in the week, new research was published, suggesting that Antarctica is losing ice at a much faster rate than it did about a decade ago. An upcoming study hopes to contest those findings with its claim that the continent isn’t losing ice, but actually gaining more of it on an overall basis.
According to Yellowhammer News, study author Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA, had previously countered studies about the accelerating pace of Antarctic ice melt by publishing a paper in 2015 that illustrated how ice sheet growth in the continent’s eastern region is more than making up for the ice melt in the western region. The publication suggested that Zwally’s new paper will “again challenge the prevailing narrative” of global warming’s negative effect on the South Pole by illustrating how the eastern Antarctic ice sheet is still offsetting ice loss in the west with its gains.
“Basically, we agree about West Antarctica,” Zwally told the Daily Caller News Foundation, as quoted on the Yellowhammer News report.
“East Antarctica is still gaining mass. That’s where we disagree.”
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, a pair of studies were published on Thursday in the journal Nature, with one suggesting that Antarctic ice loss had increased from 73 billion metric tons per year in 2007 to 219 billion tons per year a decade later. Due to this rapid pace, the researchers believe that present-day Antarctic ice melt could result in a six-inch rise in global sea levels by the end of the 21st century. University of Leeds professor Andrew Shepherd, who led the study, said that the six-inch sea level rise could, for instance, make flooding rampant in Brooklyn, with such events taking place 20 times a year instead of once a year.
Explaining why there is such a huge difference between Zwally’s unpublished findings and what Shepherd’s group and another team of researchers published earlier in the week, Yellowstone News pointed out that both sides have key differences in terms of the models they use to make their predictions. Zwally believes that eastern Antarctica’s land mass has been responding to increases in ice sheet mass by moving downward. This could skew data on ice sheets, especially in a place like Antarctica where even tiny glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) inconsistencies could affect how ice sheet mass balance is modeled.
“It needs to be known accurately. It’s an error of being able to model. These are models that estimate the motions of the Earth under the ice,” Zwally explained.
Based on his models, Zwally estimates ice sheet growth in eastern Antarctica to be somewhere between 50 to 200 gigatons per year, a substantially higher amount than the 5-gigaton estimate made by Shepherd and his colleagues earlier this week. He acknowledged, however, that global warming has an impact on Antarctica’s ice sheets, even as there are still many unknowns, such as when these sheets began to recede and how far they might continue receding if climate change remains a problem.