Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Faster: New Study - Hit & Run

Experts fear the future may be grim if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated

They discovered that Antarctica is now losing ice about three times faster than it did until 2012, climbing to a rate of more than 241 billion tons (219 billion metric tons) per year.

The West Antarctic peninsula, one of the fastest warming places on Earth, has seen ice loss soar from 7bn to 33bn tonnes a year in that timespan, as ice shelves have collapsed.

Shepherd says they've seen the most dramatic effects in West Antarctica, where the ice sheet rests on the sea bed.

Antarctica has lost a staggering three trillion tons of ice since 1992, according to a landmark study published on Wednesday that suggests the frozen continent could redraw Earth's coastlines if global warming continues unchecked. However, in the last five years, it too has begun to lose ice, perhaps as much as 28 billion tons per year, although the uncertainty surrounding this number remains high.

Between 1992 and 2017, a total of 2.7 trillion tonnes of Antarctic ice melted, amounting to a rise of global sea levels by about 7.5mm just from Antarctic ice alone.

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.

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Even under ordinary conditions, Antarctica's landscape is perpetually changing as icebergs calve, snow falls and ice melts on the surface, forming glacial sinkholes known as moulins. "Things are happening faster than we expected", Isabella Velicogna of the University of California and one of the report's authors said.

"The ice sheet is now losing three times as much ice", Shepherd told NPR, adding that the annual sea level rise attributed to Antarctica has similarly tripled ― from 0.2 mm to 0.6 mm.

The annual sea level rise that's attributed to Antarctica has tripled, from 0.2mm to 0.6mm, or from less than a tenth of an inch to almost a quarter of an inch, he says.

Another component of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, marine-based ice, sits below sea level and is thus directly affected by the ocean.

"The next piece of the puzzle is to understand the processes driving this change", Whitehouse added.

"I think we should be anxious".

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More than 70% of the recent melt is in West Antarctica. It holds enough water to cause as much as 34 meters of sea level rise if the ice sheet were to melt completely. "This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities".

The latest study settles an old argument: the combined evidence suggests that East Antarctica is more or less stable, gaining if anything 5bn tonnes a year on average, perhaps because of greater snowfall.

Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, who leads the Ice sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (Imbie), said it had always been suspecting changes in Earth's climate would affect the polar ice sheets.

In a separate analysis piece in Nature today, climate scientist and Antarctic policy expert Professor Rob DeConto warned that Antarctica may contribute more to sea-level rise than previously thought. These scenarios are more like data-driven conversation starters according to the authors, all who have won the Tinker-Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica game out what could happen if the world does nothing - or if policy-makers take significant action in the next 10 years to stop the destruction.

The researchers relied on samples taken as part of the worldwide ANtarctic geological DRILLing (ANDRILL) project.

So what does this mean in terms of sea level rise?

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An accelerating thaw of Antarctica has pushed up world sea levels by nearly a centimeter since the early 1990s in a risk for coasts from Pacific islands to Florida, an global team of scientists said on Thursday.

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