A group of glaciers spanning an eighth of the East Antarctica coastline are being melted by the warming seas – scientists have discovered.
This Antarctic region stores a vast amount of ice which if lost would in the long-term raise global sea level by tens of metres and drown coastal settlements around the world.
Freezing temperatures meant the East Antarctica region was until recently considered largely stable but the research indicates that the area is being affected by climate change.
To the east of Totten in Vincennes Bay the height of the glaciers has fallen by about three metres in total since 2008 – before which no loss had been recorded.
To the west of Totten – in Wilkes Land – the rate of height loss has doubled since 2009 – with glaciers losing height by about two and a half metres to date.
The data comes from detailed maps of ice movement speed and height created by Nasa from satellite information.
Alex Gardner – a glaciologist at Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena California said: ‘The change doesn’t seem random – it looks systematic.
That hints at underlying ocean influences that have been incredibly strong in West Antarctica.
Now we might be finding clear links of the ocean starting to influence East Antarctica’.
Ice in West Antarctica is already in serious retreat with scientists reporting a threefold acceleration in recent years – meaning it is vanishing faster than at any previously recorded time.