Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Antarctic Ice Melt Is Accelerating Rapidly

Antarctic Ice Melt Is Accelerating Rapidly

Professor Martin Siegert, from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, said: "Some of the changes Antarctica will face are already irreversible, such as the loss of some ice shelves, but there is a lot we can prevent or reverse".

While the current ice loss measured is literally a drop in the ocean compared to Antartica's catastrophic potential to raise global sea level by as much as 58 metres (190 ft) if the ice sheets were to completely melt, the apparent acceleration in the latest satellite observations is enough to have scientists duly anxious.

From 2012 to 2017, the melting Antarctic ice sheet has dumped 241 billion tons of water into the ocean, the study says.

Antarctica has lost 219 billion tonnes of ice since 2012, up from the 76 billion that was recorded in previous years.

The research shows that Antarctica has lost nearly 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992. As part of IMBIE, Professor Shepherd coordinated with 83 other scientists, from 44 worldwide organizations, to combine the data from two dozen different satellite surveys for this comprehensive look at the changes in Antarctica's ice mass balance.

Louisa Casson, from the environmental group Greenpeace UK, said: "Right now we have an opportunity to protect the Antarctic, the incredible home of penguins and whales that also affects our global climate".

It also found that although the total area of sea ice surrounding Antarctica has shown little overall change during the satellite era, there are signs of a longer-term decline when mid-twentieth century ship-based observations are considered.

The cause is clearly due to the warming world, with temperatures boosted by the increased amount of carbon dioxide humanity emits from the burning of fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal.

Although the general trend was of reduction, there was some increase in ice cover in East Antarctica.

A glance at 1st round of US Open
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While some people blame climate change for the rapid melting ice caps, others blame underground heat sources such as volcanoes. It holds enough water to cause as much as 34 meters of sea level rise if the ice sheet were to melt completely. Its fall back like in this case, means melting ice sheets and sea level increase.

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the world's largest potential contributor to sea level rise (175 feet, if the whole thing melted). According to the study, the rate of loss in that part of the content has increased from 53 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s, up to the current rate of 159 billion tonnes per year.

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

Twila Moon, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, who was not involved in the study, said the research was further confirmation that Antarctica is losing ice at an "increasingly fast pace".

A second worldwide study published in Nature highlighted evidence of Antarctica's increasing contribution to rising sea levels. In light of the acceleration in ice loss we have observed over the past five years, we now find sea level rise from Antarctica to be tracking the IPCC's highest projection.

- Glaciers flowing down the ice sheet spread under their own weight as they flow toward the ocean and eventually lose contact with the bedrock, forming about 300 floating ice shelves that fringe the continent.

An author of the study Isabella Velicogna, at the University of California at Irvine, said, "We took all the estimates across all the different techniques, and we got this consensus". The findings helped confirm that the Greenland Ice Sheet is a sensitive responder to global climate change. Global sea levels would then only rise by around half a metre due to effects that have been irreversible since 2010.

There are "many, many communities where sea level at high tide is really reaching the brim and spilling into the streets more often that it did just decades ago", he said.

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