Antarctica losing ice twice as fast as six years ago

Hamish Pritchard shows a two-man British Antarctic Survey field camp on Alexander Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. In a study released Wednesday

Ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, increasing global sea levels by 0.12 inch (3 millimeters) in that timeframe alone, according to a major new worldwide climate assessment funded by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Lead author Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds told NPR that prior to 2012, Antarctica's ice losses had been contributing a "relatively small proportion" to global sea level rise.

"The continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years".

The region's largest glaciers, Pine Island and Thwaites - which is considered the most unsafe glacier in the world and will be studied intensively over the next three years, the Inquisitr reported in April - "hold the unwelcome distinction of having the world's highest annual levels of glacier loss", notes the Smithsonian Magazine.

Scientists just revealed how fast Antarctica's ice melted over the last years.

We have long suspected that changes in Earth's climate will affect the polar ice sheets.

Their report, published Thursday in a special issue of the journal Nature, found evidence that the drift of Antarctic glaciers toward the ocean is accelerating.

The frozen continent lost nearly three trillion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, the 84 scientists said in what they called the most complete overview of Antarctic ice to date.

Eric Rignot, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, added, "Measurements collected by radar satellites and Landsat over the years have documented glacier changes around Antarctica at an unbelievable level of precision, so that we have now a very detailed and thorough understanding of the rapid changes in ice flow taking place in Antarctica and how they raise sea level worldwide". If the sea ice melts the sea would probably rise half a meter from where it was in 2000 which would wreak havoc on USA costs.

"Greenhouse gas emissions must start decreasing in the coming decade to have a realistic prospect of following the low emissions narrative and so avoid global impacts associated with change in Antarctica, such as substantial sea level rise", he said. That is pushing up global sea levels by 0.6mm annually, a three-fold increase since the last assessment in 2012.

That exact location matters, as the communities living on the US coastline will see the sea levels rise, according to climate scientists.

The study, published in Nature, involved 84 scientists from 44 global organisations and claims to be the most comprehensive account of the Antarctic ice sheet to date. But warmer water is now finding its way to particularly the west of the continent melting glaciers as they reach the ocean, said Dr Steve Rintoul, a Physical Oceanographer with the CSIRO.

Antarctica is covered by ice sheets that get channelled into the oceans through a network of ice streams and glaciers and the continent has seen a reduction in the extent of floating ice shelves. For this paper, the collaboration did so again, updating the results to include the years up to 2017.

Benjamin Smith, senior principal investigator at the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory, said climate scientists are getting a better handle on crucial questions relating to the impact of Antarctic melting, thanks to more advanced satellites. The scientists have finally revealed the reasons behind the thinning and melting of the enormous chunk of ice in this attractive white continent. Sea ice typically forms a thin and highly-dynamic veneer up to a few metres thick that covers between about 3 million square kilometres (in winter) to 19-20 million square kilometres (in summer) of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.

"The next piece of the puzzle is to understand the processes driving this change", Durham University's Pippa Whitehouse said.

Related news: