Antarctica's ice sheet is melting 3 times faster than before

Federico Mansilla
Junio 15, 2018

Scientists now say if the melt rate continues to rapidly increase then it could have serious implications for coastal communities around the world.

Since 1992, scientists found that ice losses contributed to a sea level rise of 0.76 cm.

Between 1992 and 2017, the Antarctic ice sheet shed roughly 3 trillion metric tons of ice-causing the global average sea level to rise almost a third of an inch (7.6 millimeters).

The largest change by far is recorded in an area dominated by marine-terminating glaciers known as West Antarctica.

Antarctica, which is technically classified as a desert, due to the small amount of precipitation it receives in the form of snow, is home to most of Earth's fresh water (between 60 and 90%).

Crevasses form on Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, near the part of the glacier where it leaves land and extends over the ocean.

Michele Koppes, a glaciologist at the University of British Columbia, added: "This study shows that we're actually losing more mass along the edges of the ice sheet, where the ice sheet is making contact with the ocean, and that the warming oceans are melting the ice".

Altogether, across the continent, 34,000 square kilometers (13,000 square miles) of the ice shelf has been lost since the 1950s.

East Antarctica's ice sheet, however, is gaining mass at an average rate of 5 billion metric tons per year. What is most concerning, is that nearly half of this ice loss has occurred in the past five years. Coastal communities along the USA could feel the impact of a continued increase as melting ice adds to sea level rise, say experts.

Overall, world sea levels have risen nearly 8 inches in the past century, driven mainly by a natural expansion of water already in the oceans as it warms along with a thaw of glaciers form the Andes to the Alps.

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Last year, a project carried out by British-based researchers revealed 91 volcanoes beneath the surface in the west of Antarctica, meaning there are now at least 138 underwater craters in the region.

That's because as Antarctica's mass shrinks, the ice sheet's gravitational pull on the ocean relaxes somewhat, and the seas travel back across the globe to pile up far away - with US coasts being one prime destination.

The Antarctic ice sheet is melting at a faster rate than at any previously recorded time, according to a comprehensive new study.

They discovered the acceleration in the rate of ice loss when they did the calculations again for this study, this time with an additional five years of data.

"To see a threefold increase just since 2012 - that's disturbing to me", said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Antarctica is, on balance, losing its ice sheets and raising the world's sea levels.

Under high greenhouse gas emissions, the worst-case projections of sea level rise eventually reach over a centimeter each year, said Rob DeConto, an Antarctic expert at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who was not involved in the current study.

Researchers say floating ice-shelf loss has triggered the faster loss of West Antarctic ice. And that ice is melting out at a quickening pace, showing that we're quickly driving the climate over the guard rails that have allowed humanity to flourish.

Sea levels will rise and all coastal countries could be seriously threatened by flooding if nothing is done to stop the massive melt of sea ice in Antarctica, according to nine award-winning scientists who have spent decades studying the icy continent and the waters around it.

"The fate of Antarctica, the fate of Greenland, is the fate of Miami", she said.

Sea level contribution due to the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2017.

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