"View of the Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica" by NASA / Public Domain

East Antarctica is losing ice faster than anyone thought

Dec 12, 2018

By Alexandra Witze

East Antarctica was supposed to be the stable side of the icy continent, whose western flank is losing ice fast1. But glaciologists are finding that the closer they look at East Antarctica, the more change they see.

Four small glaciers in a region known as Vincennes Bay are thinning at surprisingly fast rates, researchers reported on 10 December at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC.

“People think that East Antarctica is stable,” says Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. “But it’s where we should be looking.”

The glaciers are responding to warm ocean waters that now reach much closer to East Antarctica’s icy edge than in years past — and might continue to do so. “It’s a signal of what’s to come,” says Catherine Walker, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who led the team analysing the glaciers.

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