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Cryosat confirms accelerating ice melt in Antarctica


Paris, May 20 (EFE).- Observations made over the past three years by the Cryosat satellite show that Antarctica is losing some 160 billion tons of ice a year, double the amount calculated in a similar study of the five previous years, the European Space Agency, or ESA, said.

Melting polar icecaps are one of the chief contributors to rising sea levels, and the melt recorded by the ESA satellite alone is enough to raise the level 0.45 millimeters a year, the space agency said in a statement.

The areas losing the most ice, according to data analyzed by Britain's Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling, are in western Antarctica (134 billion tons a year), in the east (3 billion tons) and on the peninsula (23 billion tons).

Cryosat, launched in 2010, is equipped with an altimeter that can measure the precise change in height of an ice surface, which allows scientists to note its evolution with unprecedented accuracy.

"We have seen the greatest loss of ice in the sector near the Amundsen Sea...with degrees of thinning of between 4 and 8 meters (13 and 26 feet) a year," British professor Malcolm McMillan, the lead author of the study, said.

The challenge, according to ESA, lies in using the test results collected to improve prediction models, since the evidence indicates that on this part of the planet obvious changes are occurring.