East Antarctica seems to have started losing ice in 2006, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. Gravity measurements of ice mass in Antarctica confirm earlier estimates of ice loss in West Antarctica, and suggest that East Antarctica has dropped out of balance in the past few years.
Jianli Chen and colleagues used data obtained with the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to estimate Antarctica's ice mass between April 2002 and January 2009. Their estimate of a loss of 132 gigatonnes of ice per year from West Antarctica provides an independent confirmation of earlier results. However, the researchers also found that the East Antarctic ice sheet, which had been in balance within error margins, started to lose mass from about 2006.
The estimated loss comes from East Antarctica's coastal regions and lies at 57 gigatonnes per year, albeit with a large uncertainty range of +/-52 gigatonnes per year.