Greenland is losing an average of 200 million tonnes of ice every year since 2003, which could have a big impact on sea levels, scientists claim.

The latest analysis by scientists studying the changing mass of the island using satellite data backs the previously reported trend without even including the last two summers of record-breaking ice melts.

“Greenland is really the place where everyone agrees that (the ice melt) is definitely accelerating with time and there is a big contribution to sea level rise,” said researcher Isabella Velicogna of the University of California (UCI).

Velicogna is an expert at analysing the same kind of data used in this most recent study: from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) which can detect mass changes on the surface of the Earth over time, the ‘Discovery News’ reported.

GRACE does this by detecting subtle increases and decreases in gravity, which is directly related to the mass below the two orbiting GRACE satellites.

Roughly, 200 million tonnes of ice is the amount needed to fill enough railroad coal cars to encircle the Earth.

Princeton University researcher Chris Harig and Frederik Simons applied a new method to analysing the GRACE data. They found that during 2003 and 2004, mass loss was centred along the eastern coast of Greenland.

From 2005 to 2006, mass loss dropped in the northeast but rose in the southeast. Meanwhile, more mass was lost along the northwest coast, especially from 2007-2010.

“The study confirms what we already knew,” says Eric Rignot, an Earth Systems Science Professor at UCI and scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

“The authors use a new decomposition, but the sources of error and corrections are essentially the same as for other studies.

“The main message from this work is that we are doing a much better job figuring out where the mass is melting,” said Harig.

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.