Antarctic Ice Melt Is Accelerating Rapidly

Antarctic Ice Melt Is Accelerating Rapidly

A separate study - also published in Nature this week - found that global sea levels could be 3 feet higher by 2070 if nothing is done to curb the ice loss in the next few years.

The rate of Antarctic ice melt has tripled since 2012, according to a new study. Suddenly removing the ice shelves attached to these sensitive areas could initiate glacier retreat and accelerate sea level rise.

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.

For the new study, the scientists combined data from three types of satellite measurements to track changes in ice over time, study co-author Andrew Shepherd, a professor of Earth observation with the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, told Live Science.

While some people blame climate change for the rapid melting ice caps, others blame underground heat sources such as volcanoes.

The amount of ice lost is nearly three times more than in the 2002-2007 period, the report said.

But another decade after that, between 2012 and 2017, that number was 219 billion metric tons of ice lost per year.

During the same period, the loss of ice for the Antarctic Peninsula went up from seven billion tonnes annually to 33 billion tonnes annually. "Without the ice shelf to act as a natural buffer, glaciers can flow faster downstream and out to sea".

Finally, the scientists are recording gravity measurements for Antarctica.

Monitoring Antarctica from space has revealed how its ice is being lost to the oceans, providing crucial insight into the continent's response to a warming climate, scientists say.

In Antarctica, it's mostly warmer water causing the melt.

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"We are able to say that the increased ice loss is mainly due to ocean-driven melting in West Antarctica", lead author Andrew Shepherd, researcher from the University of Leeds, told USA Today.

"The data from GRACE's twin satellites show us not only that a problem exists, but that it is growing in severity with each passing year".

Though the last group, led by Torsten Albrecht, wasn't involved in an observational work, their sophisticated modeling techniques did coincide with the first two studies and noted grounding line of the ice sheet was up to 200 km inland in the Weddell Sea and 400 km in the Ross Sea region. Without them, there is nothing to stop vast amounts of grounded ice forming the Antarctic Ice Sheet from flowing into the Southern Ocean and raising sea levels.

- 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.

Millimeters of sea level rise may not sound like much, but previous surveys suggested that Antarctica's massive ice sheets likely wouldn't be affected by climate change at all.

The data showed that between 2012 and 2017 the rate of loss of ice tripled in comparison to the loss rate before the year 2012.

"Now when we look again, we can see actually that the signal is very different to what we've seen before", Shepherd said. "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".

Researchers like Shepherd fear that future knowledge from satellites is at risk, however.

"Unfortunately, we appear to be on a pathway to substantial ice-sheet loss in the decades ahead, with longer-term consequences for enhanced sea-level rise; something that has been predicted in models for some time".

"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.

"They're melting the ice at rates that far exceed anything that would change in the air, and these are forces that you can't reverse easily".

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