MELTING ice sheets have been responsible for 20% of sea level rises in the last 20 years, an international team involving North East experts has revealed.
Their studies have produced the most accurate assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland to date, ending 20 years of uncertainty.
About two thirds of the ice loss was from Greenland, with the remainder from Antarctica.
Thanks to the inclusion of more satellite data, the study confirms that both Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice. It also shows that the combined rate of ice sheet melting has increased over time and altogether, Greenland and Antarctica are now losing more than three times as much ice as they were in the 1990s.
Professor Mike Bentley, from the Department of Geography at Durham University, said: “This study is a big step forward because there are several ways to measure change in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, and it shows clearly that the different techniques come up with essentially the same answer.”
The study combined observations from 10 different satellite missions to develop the first consistent measure of polar ice sheet changes. Study coordinator Professor Andrew Shepherd, from the University of Leeds, said: "The success of this venture is due to the cooperation of the international scientific community, and due to the provision of precise satellite sensors by our space agencies.
“Without these efforts, we would not be in a position to tell people with confidence how the Earth's ice sheets have changed and to end the uncertainty that has existed for many years.”
The study also found differences in the pace of change at each pole.