Dwindling Antarctic ice messing with Earth's gravity: Blame climate change


The Earth's gravity is messing up and global warming appears to be responsible. The warming climate has caused massive ice loss in West Antarctica in recent years and this phenomenon has caused the Earth's gravity to be weaker there.

The findings were based on measurements made by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite, which was developed to map the Earth's gravitation field, and data from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission, a collaboration between the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center which aims to provide accurate mapping of variations in the gravity field of the Earth.

Changes in the earth's mass cause the gravity to fluctuate in small ways but with the large scale melting of the ice sheets in West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012, the loss was large enough to result in changes in the Earth gravitational force pulling over the region, ESA revealed.

"Although not designed to map changes in Earth's gravity over time, ESA's extraordinary satellite has shown that the ice lost from West Antarctica over the last few years has left its signature," ESA said in a statement.

By combining data from GOCE and GRACE, scientists learned that West Antarctica lose about 209 billion metric tons of ice from year 2009 to 2012, which could be largely blamed on the retreating glaciers. During this period, Pine Island Glacier shed 67 billion metric tons of ice annually. Thwaites Glacier and Getz Ice Shelf, on the other hand, lost 67 billion metric tons and 55 billion metric tons of ice respectively each year.

"Scientists can now look at changes in ice mass in small glacial systems," ESA said. "They have found that the loss of ice from West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012 caused a dip in the gravity field over the region."

GOCE has already provided several observations in the past that showed how gravity on Earth changes overtime. The satellite, for instance, has revealed that the earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 has left a mark in the gravity of the planet.

Besides messing with the Earth's gravity, a number of extreme and unwanted phenomena that took place in recent years including the loss habitats, the declining population of wildlife and extreme weather events such as heat waves and storms are also largely attributed to climate change.

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