Polar ice sheets melting faster than predicted

Ice loss from the massive ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating, according to a new study.

If the trend continues, ice sheets could become the dominant contributor to sea level rise sooner than scientists had predicted, concludes the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"The traditional view of the loss of land ice on Earth has been that mountain glaciers and ice caps are the dominant contributors, and ice sheets are following behind," said study co-author Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine. "In this study, we are showing that ice sheets, mountain glaciers and ice caps are neck-and-neck."

But that could soon change, Rignot said, because the rate at which ice sheets are losing mass is increasing three times faster than the rate of ice loss from mountain glaciers and ice caps.

"I don't think we expected ice sheets to run neck-and-neck with mountain glaciers, which basically sit in a warmer climate, this soon," he said.

Source: Greenwire, 9 March 2011

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