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

Ice loss in Antarctica is increasingly contributing to global sea level rise

Total ice loss during the 25-year period contributed to sea level rise of about 0.3 inches (around 8 millimeters), approximately 40 percent of which - about 0.1 inches (3 mm) - happened in the past five years.

NASA says ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, raising sea levels by 0.12 inch (3 millimeters), a faster rise than we've seen at any time in the past 25 years.

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 Antarctic ice sheet has lost more than 2,500 billion tonnes of ice in the past 25 years and almost half of that has happened since 2012. After 2012, however, the losses have skyrocketed to almost triple that amount - 219 billion tonnes of ice lost per year, up until 2017.

West Antarctica lost 159 billion tons of ice a year from 2012 through 2017, compared with just 65 billion tons from 2002 through 2007. That's up from 84 billion tons ten years ago, and 54 billion tons ten years before that.

The global research team analyzed 24 satellite-based estimates of Antarctic ice sheet mass to calculate these rates.

Scientists have previously raised fears about a scenario in which ice loss from Antarctica takes on a rate of explosive growth.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica's ice sheet to date.

Warmer water is mostly causing the melt on our planet's southern-most continent.

"We're watching these reports closely", said Michiel van den Broeke, professor of Polar Meteorology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, saying they were the guide for defending the Dutch coast.

"If we aren't already alert to the dangers posed by climate change, this should be an enormous wake-up call", he added.

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"Whilst there's still considerable uncertainty about East Antarctica mass balance, it is increasingly clear that ice loss from West Antarctica has accelerated", said Kate Hendry, a researcher at the University of Bristol, commenting on the findings.

It predicts that if emissions remain high, by 2070 major ice shelves will have collapsed, sea level rise will have accelerated to rates not seen in 20,000 years, and ocean acidification and over-fishing will have altered Southern Ocean ecosystems.

Antarctica is not the only contributor to sea-level rise. But as the Post notes, "There is no proof the current rate of change in Antarctica will continue".

"I think we should be anxious".

The changes will not be steady, in any case, said Knut Christianson, an Antarctic researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, by email.

Much of the melt-off is coming from the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, victims of climate change.

It's possible, however, that Antarctica alone can add about half a foot to sea level rise by the end of the century, said Andrew Shepherd, the lead author of the study and a professor of earth observation at the University of Leeds in England. West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, which reaches toward South America, have been known for some time to be losing ice.

"Now when we look again, we can see actually that the signal is very different to what we've seen before", Shepherd said. And many of those papers showed different results.

"The kinds of changes that we see today, if they were not to increase much more. then maybe we're talking about something that is manageable for coastal stakeholders, " said DeConto.

Continuing high emissions could deliver massive sea level rise - but strong compliance with the Paris climate agreement, while unable to stop changes happening now, could help to control how much they worsen. "To do this, we need to keep watching the ice sheet closely, but we also need to look back in time and try to understand how the ice sheet responded to past climate change".

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