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Researchers from Edinburgh University say the warming of the Arctic Ocean plays a key role in accelerating the loss of ice from the islands, which lose 11.4 billion tonnes of ice each year.
The university team mapped data provided by the European Space Agency to monitor changes in the surface height and mass of ice caps and glaciers. Comparing this data with climate data from the same period showed a clear link between rising atmospheric and ocean temperatures and increased ice loss. The study suggests that the amount of ice lost between 2010 and 2018 would cover an area the size of the Netherlands in seven feet of water.
The stability of the glaciers and ice caps of the Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zemlya archipelagos has been heavily impacted by the ice thinning, which could lead to a further increase in ice loss in the future.
Ice caps are large bodies of ice hundreds of meters thick that cover areas up to 8,000 square miles in this region. Ice stored inside them can be up to 12,000 years old. This provides scientists with valuable historical records of climate change. Researchers hope this data will help predict future ice loss in regions with comparable patterns of temperature change and improve global sea level predictions.
Dr Paul Tepes, from Edinburgh University’s School of GeoSciences, warned: “As the climate continues to warm, significant ice loss in the Russian Arctic will have clear impacts for sea level rise.”