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Most Accurate Assessment confirms Polar Ice Losses

December 3, 2012; 11:32 AM ET

The most accurate assessment to date has confirmed that the rate of ice sheet melting is increasing, according to experts from both the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

Areas of ice loss and gain over Antarctica since 1992.

Using combined observations from ten different satellite missions the research team was able to produce the first consistent measurement of polar ice sheet changes over Greenland and Antarctica.

The results of the study indicate that the combined melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets has added 11.1 mm or 1.1 cm to global sea levels over the past 20 years.

Of note, two-thirds of the ice loss was from Greenland and the rest from Antarctica, according to the ESA story.

Combined, Greenland and Antarctica are losing more than three times as much ice as they were in the 1990's.

Key excerpts from the ESA report....

The new estimates are a vast improvement - more than twice as accurate - thanks to the inclusion of more satellite data, and confirm that both Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice.

Earth observation satellites are key to monitoring the polar ice because they carry instruments that measure changes in the thickness of the ice sheets, fluctuations in the speed of the outlet glaciers and even small changes in Earth's gravity field caused by melting ice.

"The rate of ice loss from Greenland has increased almost five-fold since the mid-1990s.

"In contrast, while the regional changes in Antarctic ice over time are sometimes quite striking, the overall balance has remained fairly constant - at least within the certainty of the satellite measurements we have to hand," said co-leader of the study Dr Erik Ivins from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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