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Mass increase of Antarctic ice sheet greater than losses, finds NASA

A new study by NASA has found that Antarctica has started gaining ice sheets as it was accumulating about 10,000 years ago. Scientists say that the new data offer previously unrecorded gains in Antarctica, and challenges the reports of the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that Antarctica is losing ice.

According to the study published in the Journal of Glaciology, the Antarctic ice sheet gained 112 billion tons of ice per year in the period covering 1992 to 2001, but it slowed down to 82 billion tons per year during 2003 to 2008. Lead researcher Jay Zwally and his team analyzed the constantly-recorded meteorological data from 1979 to the present day, to find that accumulation of snowfall in the eastern region of Antarctica actually decreased by 11 billion tons per year in the past two decades.

“We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica,” said Zwally.

Researchers found that ice has been thickening steadily from 1992 to 2008 at 200 billion tons per year,  while the losses in the western region and the Antarctic Peninsula increased to 65 billion tons per year. Zwally believes that it might take only a few decades for Antarctica’s growth to reverse. He said that if the losses continued to increase at the same rate they’ve been growing, the losses will catch up with the gains in about 20 or 30 years, and there will not be enough snowfall to counter those losses.

Zwally added that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away. He also mentioned that if 0.27 mm per year of sea level rise credited to Antarctica in the IPCC report did not come from the continent, there must be some other factor to sea level rise that is not accounted for.

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