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 February 10, 2012
Global Ice Loss from 2003-2010 Could "Cover the Entire United States in One and Half Feet of Water"

 
Global warming: CU-led study pinpoints Earth's ice loss

Earth's glaciers and ice caps outside of the regions of Greenland and Antarctica are shedding about 150 billion tons of ice annually, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The total mass ice loss from Greenland, Antarctica and all Earth's glaciers and ice caps between 2003 to 2010 was 1,000 cubic miles, about eight times the water volume of Lake Erie.

"The total amount of ice lost to Earth's oceans from 2003 to 2010 would cover the entire United States in about 1 and one-half feet of water," said CU-Boulder physics Professor John Wahr, who helped lead the study....

The measurements are important because the melting of the world's glaciers and ice caps, along with Greenland and Antarctica, pose the greatest threat to sea level increases in the future, Wahr said.

The researchers used satellite measurements from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to calculate that the world's glaciers and ice caps lost about 148 billion tons, or about 39 cubic miles of ice annually from 2003 to 2010. The total does not count the mass from individual glacier and ice caps on the fringes of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which could add up to an additional 80 billion tons.

"This is the first time anyone has looked at all of the mass loss from all of Earth's glaciers and ice caps with GRACE," said Wahr. "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."

... According to the GRACE data, total sea level rise from all land-based ice on Earth including Greenland and Antarctica was roughly 1.5 millimeters per year annually or about 12 millimeters, or one-half inch, from 2003 to 2010, said Wahr. The sea rise amount does include the expansion of water due to warming, which is the second key sea-rise component and is roughly equal to melt totals, he said.