Antarctic glaciers are losing ice faster than ever documented

Unprecedented and rapid retreat of the Pope, Smith, and Kohler glaciers at the South Pole threatens a steep increase in sea level.

Published Tue, Feb 8 2022 5:22 AM CST   |   Updated Sat, Mar 5 2022 11:40 PM CST

A new article on the waning glaciers has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Antarctic glaciers are losing ice faster than ever documented 01 |

Researchers from the University of Houston (UH) are studying three glaciers at the South Pole with a new, advanced remote imaging system known as synthetic aperture radar interferometry. The use of radar allows satellite observations to be taken in any weather conditions, through clouds, and without the need for sunlight.

"In the past, we needed to wait several years in order to accumulate enough useful data. For that reason, we could observe only long-term trends. Now we can look at retreats on a monthly basis and can capture a new level of detail that will help improve glacier models, and in turn, refine our sea level rise estimates," said radar scientist Pietro Milillo, assistant professor of civil engineering at UH.

The data collected by the TanDEM-X and COSMO-SkyMed satellites is being analyzed by scientists from NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), in addition to those from UH and the University of California Irvine. The measurements of the Pope, Smith, and Kohler glaciers show "rapid and unprecedented retreat." Milillo notes that "if all ice above flotation in Antarctica would melt, the sea level would go up on average by 58 meters (190 feet)."

"If all these glaciers melt, the sea water could rise rapidly. With 267 million people worldwide living on land less than 2 meters (6.6 feet) above sea level, an abrupt migration could result," said Milillo.

"We have been able in recent years to witness retreat rates faster than ever observed among glaciers around the world. That's a warning sign that things are not settling, not stabilizing at all. This could have severe implications for the equilibrium of the entire glacier system in this area," Milillo said.

You can read more from the article here.

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