Chicago: Antarctica's glaciers are retreating at a much faster pace than previously believed, a new study released by the US Geological Survey (USGS) indicates. According to maps issued by the Survey, one major ice shelf has completely disappeared and another shelf three times the size of Rhode Island has broken off since 1986.
The USGS report, created in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, is the first that studies the Antarctica coastline.
Scientists previously knew that the Wordie Ice Shelf had been retreating, but the study shows for the first time that it has completely disappeared. Also, the northern part of the Larsen Ice Shelf no longer exists. An area more than three times the size of the State of Rhode Island (more than 8500 square kilometers or 3280 square miles) has broken off from the Larsen Ice Shelf since 1986.
The survey results are of immense consequence for Antarctica is the earth's largest reservoir of glacial ice, holding an estimated 91% of the planet's glacier volume.
USGS scientists said that Antarctic floating ice shelves are especially sensitive to climate change, so their rapid disappearance may presage losses of the land-based ice sheet on the continent if warming continues. This, they said, could result in sea-level rise, threatening low-lying coastal communities and islands, according to the report.