Antarctica Is Losing So Much Ice It's Throwing Off Earth's Gravity

Rising sea levels inundating coastal cities are the least of our global warming problems. According to a new report by the European Space Agency, the loss of snowpack along the antarctic ice shelf is throwing off Earth's gravitational field. Yeah, pretty sure that's bad.

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For the last four years, the ESA's GOCE satellite has circled the globe, mapping the Earth's gravitational field in unprecedented detail. And between 2009 and 2013, the GOCE revealed, the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has progressed enough to actually decrease the region's gravity.

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It's just a small decrease, not like we're going to see penguins floating off into space, but it is yet another example of how global warming is rapidly changing our planetary dynamic.

And this revelation is backed up by the findings of a number of other scientific satellites. The joint US-German Grace satellite has been detecting similar gravitational disturbances—albeit at a much coarser resolution—for more than a decade and the ESA's own CryoSat satellite has found that West Antarctic Ice Sheet's rate of loss has tripled every year since 2009 and has caused the entire continent to shrink by 125 cubic kilometres a year since 2011. At this rate, researchers fear that the collapse and dissolution of our Southern polar ice cap has become irreversible. [ESA via Mother Jones]

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DISCUSSION

Serious questions: 1) How does lowered gravity affect this area or the rest of the planet? 2) Or is this basically a negligible difference that we now have the ability to detect so let's detect it?

My gut tells me that changes in gravity are essentially meaningless in this situation. I mean, the ocean rises and falls on average about 9-10 feet on most coastlines every six hours. That's a lot of mass moving around which must make for a measurable change in local gravity too, right? What effect does that have?