14 June 2018Hot off the Press
Antarctica has lost nearly three million tonnes of ice since 1992, two-fifths of which has disappeared in the last five years, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
The landmark study conducted by 84 scientists found that the severe melting of ice had caused sea levels to rise by 7.6mm and could redraw Earth’s coastlines.
“We now have an unequivocal picture of what’s happening in Antarctica,” said co-lead author Eric Rignot, a NASA jet propulsion scientist who has been tracking Earth’s ice sheets for two decades.
“We view these results as another ringing alarm for action to slow the warming of our planet.”
Previously, there has been some contention over whether Antarctica has accumulated more mass through snowfall than it loses in meltwater run-off and ice flows into the ocean.
However, through analysis of more than 20 years worth of satellite data from 24 separate space-based surveys, a more complete picture has formed.
According to the study, Antarctica has enough pack ice to raise sea levels by approximately 60 metres.
Over 90% of that ice is located in east Antarctica, which has not seen any dramatic melting despite Earth’s average surface temperature increasing by one degree Celsius.
West Antarctica, however, has had a severe reaction to global warming with more than 6500 square kilometres of ice shelves collapsing into the ocean since 1995.
As ice shelves are already floating, they do not contribute to rising sea levels, but Antarctica’s enormous glaciers sliding into the ocean do.
There is enough frozen water in West Antarctica to raise sea levels by up to 3.5 metres.
“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, as cited by SBS.