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January 13, 2008 – Original Source: Nature Geoscience

Letter abstract

Nature Geoscience 1, 106 – 110 (2008)
Published online: 13 January 2008 | doi:10.1038/ngeo102

Eric Rignot1,2,3, Jonathan L. Bamber4, Michiel R. van den Broeke5, Curt Davis6, Yonghong Li6, Willem Jan van de Berg5 & Erik van Meijgaard7

Large uncertainties remain in the current and future contribution to sea level rise from Antarctica. Climate warming may increase snowfall in the continent’s interior1, 2, 3, but enhance glacier discharge at the coast where warmer air and ocean temperatures erode the buttressing ice shelves4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Here, we use satellite interferometric synthetic-aperture radar observations from 1992 to 2006 covering 85% of Antarctica’s coastline to estimate the total mass flux into the ocean. We compare the mass fluxes from large drainage basin units with interior snow accumulation calculated from a regional atmospheric climate model for 1980 to 2004. In East Antarctica, small glacier losses in Wilkes Land and glacier gains at the mouths of the Filchner and Ross ice shelves combine to a near-zero loss of 4plusminus61 Gt yr-1. In West Antarctica, widespread losses along the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas increased the ice sheet loss by 59% in 10 years to reach 132plusminus60 Gt yr-1 in 2006. In the Peninsula, losses increased by 140% to reach 60plusminus46 Gt yr-1 in 2006. Losses are concentrated along narrow channels occupied by outlet glaciers and are caused by ongoing and past glacier acceleration. Changes in glacier flow therefore have a significant, if not dominant impact on ice sheet mass balance.


  1. University of California Irvine, Earth System Science, Irvine, California 92697, USA
  2. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109, USA
  3. Centro de Estudios Cientificos, Arturo Prat 514, Valdivia, Chile
  4. University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK
  5. Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU), Utrecht University, 3584 CC Utrecht, The Netherlands
  6. University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA
  7. Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), 3732 GK De Bilt, The Netherlands

Correspondence to: Eric Rignot1,2,3 e-mail: erignot@uci.edu

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