Antarctic Ice Sheet is Melting Three Times as Fast as Before

Andrew Shepherd shows an unusual iceberg near the Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. In a study released Wednesday

Antarctica is now melting three times faster than ever before

He noted that climate change is the only plausible cause of this increased ice melt.

Antarctica's glaciers carry ice from the interior of the continent to the ocean. Thanks to the satellites that our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea-level contribution with confidence.

They also highlight the existential threat facing low-lying coastal cities and communities home to hundreds of millions of people.

"The continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years".

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 worldwide team of scientists said on Thursday.

Achieving this is impossible without satellites. The absence of data about the East Antarctic Ice Sheet's response to warming in the past have hindered efforts to predict its role in future sea level rise.

The study was conducted by a group of researchers as part of the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise, or IMBIE, and published today in the journal Nature.

Nature has used more satellite data than any other investigation of Antarctica to derive to such conclusion.

The latest figures show East Antarctica is losing relatively little ice a year - about 31 tons (28 metric tons) - since 2012. The changing Antarctica has been the hot topic of global discussion for years now as it is heavily contributing to global warming and the rise in sea level.

Hamish Pritchard summer clouds swirl around the Staccato Peaks of Alexander Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. In a study released Wednesday

A new study of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Holocene suggests the ice sheet is unlikely to reverse its accelerating retreat as it has in the past. In West Antarctica, ice shelves are being eaten away by warm ocean water, and those in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas are up to 18 percent thinner than in the early 1990s.

The melting of ice in Antarctica is growing with great speed and has accelerated threefold in the last five years.

These changes are happening so quickly because of the Antarctic's two largest glaciers, Pine Island and Thwaites.

"If you start removing mass from there, you can have a very large scale evacuation of ice into the ocean and significant sea level rise", she continued. Before 2012, the area was actually gaining ice.

In this narrative, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean would see dramatic loss of major ice shelves by 2070 leading to increased loss of grounded ice from the Antarctic Ice Sheet and an acceleration in global sea level rise.

The findings could have serious implications for sea level rise over the coming century, the scientist said.

Shepherd brushed off skeptics who claim that climate change isn't the driving factor behind this massive melting of the ice sheet.

In the last quarter century, the southern-most continent's ice sheet - a key indicator of climate change - melted into enough water to cover Texas to a depth of almost 13 feet (4 meters), scientists calculated. Meanwhile, the Financial Times finds its own angle to the story: "The natural gas industry grew a year ago at the fastest rate since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, led by a surge in Chinese demand, which also helped to propel growth in energy consumption globally, according to energy major BP..."

Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London says: "Antarctica has in it enough ice that if it all melted, sea levels will rise globally by over 60 metres".

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