The New York Times is attempting to panic people with an article today claiming alarming ice loss in Antarctica. However, as recently as 2015, NASA reported satellite measurements show Antarctic ice mass has been growing since at least 1992, when satellites began taking measurements. Clearly, either the New York Times story is wrong or the Times is telling an unnecessarily alarmist story about a few years of minor ice loss after many more years of ice gain.
The Times article claims, “Researchers have known for a long time that, while the continent is losing mass over all as the climate changes, the change is uneven.” The assertion is only half true. Given that less than five years ago, NASA satellite instruments reported long-term and continuing growth in Antarctic ice mass, it is factually inaccurate for the Times to state, “Researchers have known for a long time that … the continent is losing mass….”
On the other hand, the Times is correct that any current asserted ice loss is “uneven.” The ice-change map accompanying the Times article shows that a much larger portion of Antarctica is gaining ice than is losing ice. The asserted overall ice-mass loss comes primarily from a relatively few locations along the very edge of the West Antarctic ice shelf. Those locations line up almost perfectly with locations where scientists have recently discovered volcanoes under the ice.
The more accurate overall picture is that scientists have documented long-term growth in the Antarctic ice sheet, even during most of the past 40 years. If there is a recent trend of ice loss, the trend is minor, confined to just a small portion of West Antarctica, has been occurring for less than five years, and is likely due in significant part to undersea volcanoes rather than climate change.