Glaciers, Ice Caps Losing 150 Billion Tons of Ice Annually

A new analysis of global satellite data has found that the world’s glaciers and ice caps — excluding Antarctica and Greenland — lost about 150 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2010, adding about 0.4 millimeters to global sea rise annually. Using data from the twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder compiled what they say is the most comprehensive data on planetary ice loss. The satellites, which are part of a joint project between NASA and Germany, travel around Earth in tandem 16 times a day and are capable of sensing subtle variations in the planet’s mass and gravitational pull. While the new calculations are significantly lower than earlier land-based studies, the researchers say the findings still show the planet’s ice is melting and causing sea levels to rise. “These new results will help us answer important questions in terms of both sea rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change,” said John Wahr, a CU-Boulder physics professor and lead author of the study, published in Nature.