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09 Feb 2012: 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 that the planet’s ice is melting and causing sea levels to rise. “The Earth is losing an incredible amount of ice to the oceans annually, and 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 physics professor at CU-Boulder and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature. During the same time period, ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland, including their peripheral ice caps and glaciers, was about 385 billion tons of ice annually.


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