Using super-sensitive satellite measurements, scientists are developing a more sharply focused picture of what is happening to the ice mass of Antarctica - one of the 800-pound gorillas of global sea level rise.
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Year-to-year rises and falls in snow and ice accumulation in two key regions of West Antarctica - the Antarctic Peninsula and a coastal region along the Amundsen Sea - are the handiwork of the natural climate pattern known as El Nino, an international team of scientists reports.
Ingo Sasgen at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences in Postdam and colleagues found clear El Nino-La Nina "signatures" when they compared gravity measurements taken from the German-American twin GRACE satellites from the years 2002 to 2009 with precipitation data from the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.
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Co-author Maik Thomas described a see-saw pattern between the two regions and the two cool and warm El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) patterns that are driven by periodic shifts in sea surface temperatures along the equatorial Pacific Ocean.