A NORTH-EAST scientist is among a group of experts who have suggested that the melting of Antarctic ice sheets may have been exaggerated.

Dr Pippa Whitehouse, from Durham University's department of geography, said advances in simulations are allowing scientists to make more accurate predictions of rising sea levels due to ice loss.

Scientists from 12 specialist centres - including Durham University - now believe the loss from the melting of the Antarctic ice sheets might be only half the amount reported in recent years.

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For the first time, the researchers collectively studied advances in both observations and simulations of ice-sheet mass changes.

Dr Whitehouse and the rest of the team confirmed recent results showing a more positive outlook in relation to the contribution to global sea-level rise from the Antarctic Ice Sheet - with ice loss being only half of what has previously been reported.

However, the scientists also confirmed a major loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet, thought to be double the Antarctic contribution.

Future increases in mass loss from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are likely to significantly increase the rate of global sea-level rise, currently just over three millimetres per year.

But considerable uncertainty continues to surround predictions, because ice sheets respond in a complex way to climate change.

This is becoming apparent through the use of improved computer models.

The research, which was led by Professor Edward Hanna of Sheffield University, was published in the journal Nature.