Antarctica is now losing about 160 billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean - twice as much as when the continent was last surveyed.
The Amundsen Sea Embayment is an Antarctic region where six huge glaciers are currently undergoing a rapid retreat - all of them being eroded by the influx of warm ocean waters that scientists say are being drawn towards the continent by stronger winds whipped up by a changing climate. A loss of all the ice in the six glaciers would add about 1.2m to global sea level!
The new assessment comes from Europe's Cryosat spacecraft, which has a radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the ice sheet.
Cryosat has two antennas slightly offset from each other. This enables the instrument to detect not just the height of the ice sheet but the shape of its slopes and ridges.This makes Cryosat much more sensitive to details at the steep edges of the ice sheet - the locations where thinning is most pronounced.
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