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Pervasive ice sheet mass loss reflects competing ocean and atmosphere processes.

  • Author(s): Smith, Ben
  • Fricker, Helen A
  • Gardner, Alex S
  • Medley, Brooke
  • Nilsson, Johan
  • Paolo, Fernando S
  • Holschuh, Nicholas
  • Adusumilli, Susheel
  • Brunt, Kelly
  • Csatho, Bea
  • Harbeck, Kaitlin
  • Markus, Thorsten
  • Neumann, Thomas
  • Siegfried, Matthew R
  • Zwally, H Jay
  • et al.
Abstract

Quantifying changes in Earth's ice sheets and identifying the climate drivers are central to improving sea level projections. We provide unified estimates of grounded and floating ice mass change from 2003 to 2019 using NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and ICESat-2 satellite laser altimetry. Our data reveal patterns likely linked to competing climate processes: Ice loss from coastal Greenland (increased surface melt), Antarctic ice shelves (increased ocean melting), and Greenland and Antarctic outlet glaciers (dynamic response to ocean melting) was partially compensated by mass gains over ice sheet interiors (increased snow accumulation). Losses outpaced gains, with grounded-ice loss from Greenland (200 billion tonnes per year) and Antarctica (118 billion tonnes per year) contributing 14 millimeters to sea level. Mass lost from West Antarctica's ice shelves accounted for more than 30% of that region's total.

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