At a press conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington this week, Catherine Walker, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, presented detailed maps that showed accelerated ice loss in several East Antarctic glaciers.
In contrast to West Antarctica where several large glaciers have been losing ice for decades, East Antarctica glaciers have exhibited little evidence of ice loss but NASA’s latest detailed maps of East Antarctica ice velocity and elevation show that a number of glaciers have begun to lose ice over the past decade.
Four glaciers in an area called Vincennes Bay have lowered their surface height by almost 3 meters since 2008. Before 2008 there had been no measured change in elevation for these glaciers. Furthermore, a collection of glaciers along the Wilkes Land coast have approximately doubled their rate of lowering since around 2009, and their surface is now going down by about 24 centimeters every year.
Earlier research has revealed that since 2002 Totten Glacier, the largest glacier in East Antarctica, and the Moscow University glacier together lost about 18.5 billion tonnes (18.5 ± 6.6 Gt/yr) of ice each year.
Together with the accelerating ice loss in West Antarctica, the latest research suggests that virtually all of Antarctic’s glaciers flowing into the sea are losing ice. The maps of ice flow velocity were generated by tracking surface features on Landsat image pairs from different years. East Antarctica is to the right, West Antarctica to the left. The hole in the middle of Antarctica indicates the maximum latitude visible to Landsat satellites.