The European Space agency put out a press release late last month that claims that they have made a disturbing discovery concerning Earth’s gravity. According to high resolution measurements from the Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has found that there has been a significant change in the Earth’s gravity due to the melting of the Antarctic sheets.
The GOCE satellite has been mapping the Earth’s gravity for four years in unprecedented detail.The satellite was not actually designed to map changes in the Earth’s gravity over time, but after doubling the lifespan of the satellite’s mission, it has been proven capable of doing just that.
Because of GOCE’s mapping researchers have found that they can detect regions where there is a differential between the usual strength of Earth’s gravity. Factors such as the Earth’s rotation and the different positions of mountain ranges and ocean trenches can cause a deviation from the Earth’s gravitational norm. So can the loss of ice in glacial areas.
Scientists have found that between 2009 and 2012 there has been a dip in the gravity near the Antarctic region due to ice loss. Between 2011 and 2014, Antarctica as a whole has been shrinking in volume by 125 cubic kilometres a year.
ESA’s CryoSat satellite, which carries a radar altimeter, has recently shown that since 2009 the rate at which ice is been lost from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet every year has increased by a factor of three.
Recently, the high-resolution measurements from GOCE over Antarctica between November 2009 and June 2012 have been analysed by scientists from the German Geodetic Research Institute, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Jet Propulsion Lab in USA and the Technical University of Munich in Germany.
Johannes Bouman from the German Geodetic Research Institute said, “We are now working in an interdisciplinary team to extend the analysis of GOCE’s data to all of Antarctica.”
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