The Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) is situated on a continental land mass at the South Pole and spreads over almost 14 million square kilometers. It is subdivided into the Antarctic Peninsula and the West and East Antarctic Ice Sheets which are separated by the Transantarctic Mountains. Nearly half of the Antarctic coast line is covered by ice shelves, floating ice extensions of the AIS. The mean ice thickness of the AIS is 2160 meters while locally the ice thickness reaches a maximum of 4776 meters. The total ice volume has a sea level equivalent of about 58 meters. The evolution of the Antarctic ice volume is determined by its mass balance. Any imbalance of the dynamic equilibrium between mass gain and mass loss results in either a growth or a decrease of the ice body and thus a change of the global sea level.

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