Despite dire claims of global warming and polar bears set adrift, the glaciers around the South Pole are actually growing, not diminishing.
A study conducted by NASA reports that the newly gained ice is enough to outweigh the losses of the past several years. The report, which was published in the Journal of Glaciology, directly challenges numerous other studies that argue the opposite, including a 2013 analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“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 lead author Jay Zwally, a glaciologist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in US. “Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica – there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas,” said Zwally.
The NASA report relies heavily on satellite data. By interpreting the information in a slightly different way than past studies, NASA has found that in the period between 1992 and 2001 the Antarctic ice sheet has had a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice per year. In the period between 2003 and 2008, it saw a net gain of 82 billion tons per year.
The news is a rare gleam of hope yet NASA cautions people not to get too optimistic. If the gains in the ice sheet decrease at the current rate, Antarctica will suffer greatly. And it could take several decades to reverse the downward trend.
“If the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years,” said Zwally.
“The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimetres per year away,” said Zwally. “But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimetres per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”