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Thickness Trends of the Antarctic Ice Sheet
Reference
Davis, C.H. and Ferguson, A.C.  2004.  Elevation change of the Antarctic ice sheet, 1995-2000, from ERS-2 satellite radar altimetry.  IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 42: 2437-2445.

What was done
The authors evaluated elevation changes of the Antarctic ice sheet throughout the five-year period June 1995 to April 2000 based on more than 123 million elevation change measurements made by the European Space Agency's (ESA) European Remote Sensing 2 (ERS-2) satellite radar altimeter.

What was learned
It was determined that the east Antarctic ice sheet had a five-year trend of 1.0 0.6 cm/year, that the west Antarctic ice sheet had a five-year trend of -3.6 1.0 cm/year, and that the entire Antarctic continent (north of 81.6S) had a five-year trend of 0.4 0.4 cm/year.  In addition, the Pine Island, Thwaites, DeVicq and Land glaciers of west Antarctica exhibited five-year trends ranging from - 26 to - 135 cm/year.

What it means
Davis and Ferguson note that the strongly negative trends of the coastal glacier outlets "suggest that the basin results are due to dynamic changes in glacier flow," and that recent observations "indicate strong basal melting, caused by ocean temperature increases, is occurring at the grounding lines of these outlet glaciers."  Hence, they conclude "there is good evidence that the strongly negative trends at these outlet glaciers, the mass balance of the corresponding drainage basins, and the overall mass balance of the west Antarctic ice sheet may be related to increased basal melting caused by ocean temperature increases."  Nevertheless, driven by the significantly positive trend of the much larger east Antarctic ice sheet, the ice volume of the entire continent grew ever larger over the last five years of the 20th century, the majority of which increase, according to Davis and Ferguson, was due to increased snowfall.

Reviewed 25 May 2005