Melting ice is pouring off Greenland and Antarctica into the sea far faster than was previously realised because of global warming, new scientific research has revealed. The accelerating loss from the world's two great land-based ice sheets means a rise in sea levels is likely to happen even more quickly than UN scientists suggested only two years ago, the findings by British scientists suggest. Although floating ice, such as that in the Arctic Ocean, does not add to sea-level rise when it melts as it is already displacing its own mass in the water, melting ice from the land raises the global sea level directly. At present it is thought that land-based ice melt accounts for about 1.8mm of the current annual sea level rise of 3.2mm � the rest is coming from the fact that water expands in volume as it warms. But the new findings, published online in the journal Nature, imply that this rate is likely to increase. High-resolution satellite laser measurements have shown that along both the Greenland and Antarctic coastlines, the glaciers and ice streams which for thousands of years have slowly carried ice into the sea are now rapidly thinning, meaning they are speeding up in their flow. In both cases, the increased flow rate is extending back far into the ice sheets' interior. This is happening all the way around Greenland, even at the high northern latitudes, and around much of Antarctica, especially in West Antarctica and around the Antarctic Peninsula. Areas around the Greenland coast are hotspots of glacier thinning � in some cases the glacier surface level is dropping at a rate of half a metre per year, while in others it is a remarkable rate of a metre and a half. It is the first time that a comprehensive view of the rate of thinning � and thus ice loss � all the way around the coast has been made possible. It has been put together by Hamish Pritchard and his colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Bristol, by analysing millions of measurements from Nasa's high-resolution ICESat (Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite).


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