Scientists measure the speed of Antarctic ice 50 years ago

Extract from the August 22, 1970 issue of Science News

There is a hypothesis that the Great Antarctic [Ice] Shield is sliding slowly through the sea at speeds of about 300 meters per year … To find out how much ice is accumulating and how much is sliding across the continent, scientists have created steps in survey assignments…. On their last hike, they reviewed the missions of this investigation and determined how fast the ice caps were crawling.


Using satellite tracking, which began in the early 1990s, scientists can accurately measure the movement of fast ice in Antarctica. Ice near the center of the continent now crawls along the coast for less than 10 feet [10 m] per year, while ice near the coast accelerates at speeds of up to several kilometers per year. Due to global warming, Antarctica is losing ice faster than it can replace it. From 2012 to 2017, the continent threw an average of 219 billion tonnes of ice per year, up from 76 billion tonnes per year over the past two decades. Overall, Antarctic ice melted from 1992 to 2017, raising the global sea level by an average of 7.6 millimeters (SN: 7/7/18, p. 6).


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