Three years' worth of readings from the European Space Agency's CryoSat 2 satellite indicate that Antarctica's ice sheets are losing 159 billion tons of ice per year — which is twice as much as the estimates from previous altimeter surveys.
The latest estimates, published in Geophysical Research Letters, are in line with estimates produced by other methods. They're also consistent with last week's reports that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is in the midst of an apparently unstoppable retreat.
"We find that ice losses continue to be most pronounced along the fast-flowing ice streams of the Amundsen Sea sector, with thinning rates of between 4 and 8 meters per year near to the grounding lines of the Pine Island, Thwaites and Smith Glaciers," the University of Leeds' Malcolm McMillan, lead author of the study, said in a news release.
The grounding line is the boundary where glaciers lift off an underlying land mass and start floating out to sea. The University of Washington's Ian Joughin, a lead author of one of last week's studies, said the CryoSat 2 survey did a "nice job of revealing the strong thinning along the Amundsen Coast."