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NASA scientists detect large glaciers melting in east Antarctica

NASA scientists say they are detecting signs of ice melt on east Antarctica's glaciers for the first time.

The BBC reports that NASA glaciologist Catherine Walker presented finding at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union this week.

The eastern portion of Antarctica was, until now, thought to be more stable in terms of ice melt than the west, but new elevation maps show that a group of glaciers in the east have been losing ice for a decade.

Totten Glacier - the largest in east Antarctica - has the potential to raise world sea levels by three metres, and scientists have previously warned it is shrinking due to warming ocean water.

"Totten is the biggest glacier in East Antarctica, so it attracts most of the research focus," Ms Walker said.

"But it turns out that other nearby glaciers are responding in a similar way to Totten."

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Researchers found glaciers to the west of Totten have dropped in height by an average of three metres since 2008 - before then, there was no measured change in elevation.

Glaciers west of Totten have doubled their rate of lowering since 2009 - their surface area now falls by about 25cm each year.

The ice loss is still smaller compared with west Antarctica, but the findings show that ice loss is more widespread than previously thought.