Stuff that matters

no more mystery ice, guys

West Antarctic glaciers lost more than 1,000 feet of ice in just 7 years.

We’ve known for a long time that Antarctica’s glaciers are in trouble — and therefore, we are, too — but new research published this week in Nature Communications measured just how much ice is disappearing, and how fast.

Scientists used radar measurements taken between 2002 and 2009 to estimate that the ice sheets and glaciers of West Antarctica’s unstable Amundsen embayment — Smith Glacier, most notably — thinned by more than 1,000 feet.


Over that time period, the point of contact between the glacier and the sea (the “grounding zone”) moved inland as much as 21 miles. Though larger glaciers in the region are also retreating, this is the fastest retreat of a grounding line, reports Climate Central.

That’s important, because ice sheets act as brakes on the flow of glaciers into the sea. As sea water gnaws at this ice from below, the ocean comes into contact with new parts of the glacier, causing it to melt even faster.

Ice melting off the glaciers of the Amundsen embayment has already contributed more than half an inch to the 6 inches of global sea-level rise in the last century.