A new report published by NASA seemingly contradicts the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which indicated a net loss of Antarctic land ice.
The general consensus amongst the scientific community historically has been in agreement on the overall data supporting the assumption Antarctica is recording net losses in the Antarctic Peninsula, as well as the Thwaites and Pine Island region of Western Antarctica. However, a new report published by NASA has sparked some contention, in that it indicates Antarctica may not be recording net losses after all.
The focus of NASA’s study included observation of the East Antarctic shelf and an accumulation of snow which began nearly 10,000 years ago. The last Ice Age coincided with a warming of the air, this contributed to a process which would then carry moisture across Antarctica, and contribute to an accumulation of snow in the Eastern shelf, continuing to the present day.
This continual accumulation of snow appears to be adding enough ice to offset the overall losses in other areas of Antarctica. The report concludes ice losses associated in the Western Antarctic coastal regions, and Antarctic Peninsula to be estimated in the range of 65 billion tons per year, while the continual accumulation of snow in the East Antarctic, estimated to contribute and account for 200 billion tons per year. Additional verification of core samples provides evidence ice thickness has been increasing in Eastern Antarctica for quite some time.
The contention amongst the scientific community, surrounding the ice losses associated in Antarctica, highlights the complexity of measuring ice thickness across tremendous swaths of land utilizing altimetry. As one is measuring data on a large scale, with a particular assumption in place, it is important to consider other areas of ice shifting which may not be readily apparent. While the research being conducted was intent upon focusing on ices losses associated in the Western Antarctic coastal regions, and Antarctic Peninsula, accumulation in the Eastern Antarctica ice shelf was not taken into account, which may contain a significant contribution to the overall discussion surrounding climate change.
NASA is in the process of developing the successor the current ICESat mission, which is utilized to measure ice sheet changes in the Antarctic. ICESat 2 will contain newer technologies, aiding scientist in a more precise measurement of ice thickness, and potentially bring illumination as to the conflicting data amongst the scientific community.
Additionally, interestingly enough, a Newsweek article published April 28, 1975, highlighted the complexity amongst the scientific community to conclusively agree on the causations of climate change.