The largest sources of sea level rise are losing weight, fast.
Giant ice sheets cover Antarctica and Greenland, holding 99 percent of the world's freshwater ice. But the ice sheets are giving up this water, as glaciers accelerate their journey to the sea and warmer air and ocean currents melt the ice. Orbiting 300 miles above Earth, NASA's twin GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites measure precisely how much these ice reservoirs are contributing to sea level rise. Measurements show Antarctica and Greenland are shedding roughly 385 billion tons of ice each year—that's more than 10 times the annual ice losses from Himalayan glaciers. This is causing global ocean waters to rise by about 0.04 inches each year. Watch the visualization below to see how the ice masses covering Greenland and Antarctica changed from 2003 to 2010.
Lead Scientists: John Wahr (Department of Physics and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder) Thomas Jacob (Department of Physics and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder) W. Tad Pfeffer (Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research/Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder) Sean Swenson (National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder)