A new report from the European Space Agency suggests that climate change is altering gravity in the Antarctic.
The ESA report reveals that "the loss of ice from West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012 caused a dip in the gravity field over the region." The ESA combined imaging from its GOCE satellite, which measures Earth's gravity, with information from the American-German orbiter GRACE, which measures changes in ice mass using gravity data, to reach its conclusion.
As Mic notes, "penguins aren't suddenly going to drift into space," but the report does reveal just how much ice West Antarctica is losing. Gravity isn't a fixed concept — it changes across the globe, depending on planetary rotation, latitude, altitude, and geology. And while the loss of Antarctic glaciers could take more than 200 years, the meltdown could raise sea levels by at least 10 feet.
NASA reported in May that western Antarctica's Amundsen Sea has already been affected by climate change, and the effects will only become more pronounced over time. The changes in Antarctica's glaciers could have a global effect — sea ice reflects sunlight, so without the icebergs, water would absorb more of the light. In turn, this could "contribute to warmer temperatures, erode coastlines, and change the habitat of arctic species, including polar bears — eventually perpetuating the feedback effect," according to Mic. And if all of that wasn't bad enough, a team of Japanese scientists suggested that climate change could also affect gender birth ratios in a study published earlier this month.
For a visualization of the ESA's findings, check out the video below. --Meghan DeMaria