Current estimates indicate that the global sea level is rising due to global warming and glacier shrinkage. Recent scientific studies have shown that a variety of terrestrial ice sources, such as the Greenland ice sheet, the West Antarctic ice sheet and Alaskan mountain glaciers, are contributing significant amounts to the global sea-level rise. However, in a study released in Science magazine, a researcher has found that the interior of the East Antarctic ice sheet is actually gaining mass. This is good news for coastal cities and island nations that might drown otherwise.

From 1992 to 2003, engineer Curt Davis used satellites to measure changes in elevation of 7.1 million kilometers of the Antarctic ice sheet. They discovered that the ice sheet’s interior was gaining mass by about 45 billion tons per year, which is enough to slow sea level rise by .12 millimeters per year. The interior of the ice sheet is the only large terrestrial ice body that is gaining mass instead of losing it.

“Many recent studies have focused on coastal ice sheet losses and their contributions to sea level rise,” Davis says. “This study suggests that the interior areas of the ice sheet also can play an important role?The East Antarctic ice sheet is the largest in the world and contains enough mass to raise sea level by more than 50 meters (over 160 feet). Thus, only small changes in its interior can have a significant affect on sea level.”

The study, funded by NASA, suggests that increased precipitation (rain and snow) was the likely cause of the gain.

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