Antarctic Ice Melting Faster Than Ever, Studies Show

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According to a landmark study done by an international team of ice experts, Antarctica has lost a staggering three trillion tonnes of ice since 1992. The study suggests the frozen continent could redraw Earth’s coastlines if global warming continues unchecked. In the last five years, two-fifths of that ice loss occurred, a three-fold increase in the pace at which Antarctica is shedding its kilometers-thick casing.

The melting ice could contribute more than 25cm to a total global sea level rise of more than a meter by 2070. This could lead eventually to the collapse of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet, and around 3.5m of sea-level rise. From 1992 to 2011, Antarctica lost nearly 84 billion tons of ice a year. From 2012 to 2017, the melt rate increased to more than 241 billion tons a year.

The study is done by a team of scientists working with NASA and the European Space Agency and is the second of assessments planned every several years. Their mission is to disclose what’s happening to the world’s vulnerable ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. The team looks at ice loss in 24 different ways using 10 to 15 satellites, as well as ground and air measurements and computer simulations.

This study was published in the journal Nature. It involved 84 scientists from 44 international organization and claims to be the most comprehensive account of the Antarctic ice sheet to date. Another study also published in Nature, warns that time is running out to save the Antarctic and its unique ecosystem – with potentially dire consequences for the world.

To avoid the worst impacts, there is a need for strong international cooperation and effective regulation backed by rigorous science. This will rely on governments recognizing that Antarctica is intimately coupled to the rest of the Earth system, and damage there will cause problems everywhere.

Prof Andrew Shepherd, from Leeds University and a lead author of the study on accelerating ice loss, said: “We have long suspected that changes in Earth’s climate will affect the polar ice sheets. Thanks to our satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence” and further added, “This has to be a cause for concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities.