USGS Documents Melting of Antarctic Ice Shelves

Antarctica’s glaciers are melting more rapidly than previously known because of climate change, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report prepared in close collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey.

The USGS study documents for the first time that one ice shelf has completely disappeared and another has lost a chunk three times the size of Rhode Island.

The USGS study focuses on Antarctica, which is the Earth’s largest reservoir of glacial ice. In a separate study published in Geophysical Letters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that ice is melting much more rapidly than expected in the Arctic as well, based on new computer analyses and recent ice measurements.

Using historical and recent satellite imagery, aerial photography, and other data, as well as the newest mapping techniques, the USGS study maps recent glacier retreat along Antarctica’s Larsen and Wordie Ice Shelves. It represents just one map of several upcoming studies of Antarctica's glaciers.

Scientists previously knew that the Wordie Ice Shelf had been retreating, but this study documents for the first time that it has completely disappeared. Moreover, the northern part of the Larsen Ice Shelf no longer exists. An area more than three times the size of Rhode Island (more than 8,500 km2) has broken off from the Larsen Ice Shelf since 1986.

“This continued and often significant glacier retreat is a wakeup call that change is happening in our Earth System and we need to be prepared,” said USGS glaciologist Jane G. Ferrigno, lead author on the study. “Antarctica is of special interest because it holds an estimated 91 percent of the Earth’s glacier volume, and change anywhere in the ice sheet poses significant hazards to society.”

To view the report, “Coastal-Change and Glaciological Map of the Larsen Ice Shelf Area, Antarctica: 1940-2005” and its accompanying map, visit http://pubs.usgs.gov/imap/2600/B.

The other completed reports in the Coastal Change and Glaciological Maps of Antarctica series can be viewed at http://pubs.usgs.gov/imap/2600.

Download Center

  • Waste Management in 2021: Accelerate Your Success with Technology

    Join waste management experts on February 23rd for a live best practice session webinar. You’ll learn how to take your waste program to the next level with visual location, barcoding, and mobility. Register now.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Reserve your copy of the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get a detailed, fact-based comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • Your Guide to Environmental Metrics that Drive Performance

    Translating sustainability into action starts with implementing the right metrics to assess your environmental risk and performance. Learn how to design metrics that improve your decision-making process and drive enterprise performance.

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

  • Unpacking ESG: 6 Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

    Environmental and Sustainability experts from Arcadis and Cority answer 6 of the most pressing questions EHS professionals have about getting started with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

  • Industry Safe