More than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted since 2003, according to new NASA satellite data that show the latest signs of global warming.
An iceberg melts off Ammassalik Island in eastern Greenland in this July 2007 file photo. [Agencies]
More than half the loss of landlocked ice in the past five years has occurred in Greenland, based on measurements of ice weight by NASA's GRACE satellite, said NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke.
NASA scientists planned to present their findings on Thursday in San Francisco. Luthcke said Greenland figures for the summer of 2008 aren't complete yet, but this year's ice loss won't be as severe as in 2007.
The news was better for Alaska. After a precipitous drop in 2005, land ice increased slightly in 2008 because of large winter snowfalls, Luthcke said. Since 2003, when the NASA satellite started taking measurements, Alaska has lost 400 billion tons of land ice.
In assessing climate change, scientists generally look at several years to determine the overall trend. Melting of land ice, unlike sea ice, increases sea levels very slightly. In the 1990s, Greenland didn't add to world sea level rise; now that island is adding about half a millimeter of sea level rise a year, NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally said.
Between Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska, melting land ice has raised global sea levels about one-fifth of an inch in the past five years, Luthcke said. Sea levels also rise from water expanding as it warms.
Other research points to more melting concerns from global warming, especially with sea ice. "It's not getting better; it's continuing to show strong signs of warming and amplification," Zwally said. "There's no reversal taking place."