Antarctic ice sheet shrinking at faster rate

One of the biggest worries about global warming has been its potential to affect the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet, a vast storehouse of frozen water that would inundate the world’s coastal regions if it were to melt because of a warming climate.

The southern continent contains enough ice to raise ocean levels by about 60 metres, a deluge that would put every major coastal city in the world deep under water and uproot hundreds of millions of people.

The huge implications posed by the health of the ice sheet have prompted major scientific interest into whether it is growing, shrinking, or stable, with no clear consensus among researchers about its overall trend.

But a new study released yesterday, based on some of the most extensive measurements to date of the continent’s ice mass, presents a worrisome development: Antarctica’s ice sheet is shrinking, at a rate that increased dramatically from 1996 to 2006.

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