Actual ice loss in Antarctic Peninsula less than reported

Ice loss in the Western Palmer Land region of the Antarctic Peninsula is much less than recently reported, according to a new study.

Ice loss in the Western Palmer Land region of the Antarctic Peninsula is much less than recently reported, according to a new study.

The region’s  glaciers are now pouring an additional 15 cubic kilometers of ice into the oceans each year compared to the 1990s, according to the study by an international team of researchers led by the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds.

The new study challenges the findings of a recent study from the University of Bristol that reported 45 cubic kilometers per year increase in ice loss from the sector.

“Dramatic changes have been reported in this part of Antarctica, so we took a closer look at how its glaciers have evolved using 25 years of satellite measurements dating back to the early 1990s,” said lead author of the Leeds study, Dr Anna Hogg.

The findings, published Tuesday  in Geophysical Research Letters, represent the first detailed assessment of changing glacier flow in Western Palmer Land — the southwestern corner of the Antarctic Peninsula.

“Dramatic changes have been reported in this part of Antarctica, so we took a closer look at how its glaciers have evolved using 25 years of satellite measurements dating back to the early 1990s,” lead author Dr Anna Hogg, from the Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment, said.

The measurements provide the first direct evidence that Western Palmer Land is losing ice due to increased glacier flow – a process known as dynamical imbalance, the study said.

The researchers found that between 1992 and 2016, the flow of most of the region’s glaciers increased by between 20 and 30 centimetres per day, equating to an average 13 percent speedup across the glaciers of Western Palmer Land as a whole.

These measurements provide the first direct evidence that Western Palmer Land is losing ice due to increased glacier flow — a process known as dynamical imbalance.

However the flow has not increased enough to  back the 45 cubic kilometers per year increase in ice loss described in the University of Bristol research, according to the Leeds scientists.

“Although Western Palmer Land holds a lot of ice – enough to raise global sea levels by 20 centimeters — its glaciers can’t be responsible for a major contribution to sea level rise, because their speed has barely changed over the past 25 years,” said study co-author Professor Andrew Shepherd, from Leeds.

By: David Beasley Earth.com Staff Writer

Source: University of Leeds