You are here: Q-news > New research shows that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is thinning fast

New research shows that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is thinning fast

Satellite image of AntarcticaNew research shows that ice is being lost from the West Antarctic ice sheet five times faster than in the 1990s. More than 100 metres (330 feet) of ice thickness has gone in some parts. The research used about 800 million satellite measurements of ice sheet thickness taken between 1992 and 2017. A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would raise sea levels by about 5 metres (16 feet), submerging coastal cities across the globe. The current losses are doubling every decade, scientists say.

Glacier flowing into the Amundsen Sea
The warming of the Southern Ocean off the coast of West Antarctica is causing its glaciers to slide into the sea increasingly rapidly. The warm waters melt the underside of the glaciers where they grind against the seabed. The melting reduces the friction where ice meets rock, enabling the glaciers to slide more quickly into the sea. There are no large large ice shelves along the coast of the Amundsen Sea to stem this flow.
Ice thinning in the Amundsen Sea region, 2002–14 

Q-files now has new sections specially written for younger readers. They are: Living world, Earth, Science, Human body, Prehistoric life, Space, History, Geography and Technology.

Find the answer