Antarctica ice loss increases six fold since 1979, new study finds

Antarctica ice loss increases six fold since 1979, new study finds

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was a collaborative effort by glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Netherlands' Utrecht University.

A new study found that the melt rate of Antactic ice has increased from 36 billion tonnes in 1979-90 up to 228 billion tonnes from 2009-17, say researchers. And the rate of ice melt has increased as well, by almost three times.

Data was derived from fairly high-resolution aerial photographs taken from a distance of about 350 metres via Nasa's Operation IceBridge; satellite radar interferometry from multiple space agencies; and the ongoing Landsat satellite imagery series, begun in the early 1970s.

A rise of 1.8 meters (six feet) by 2100, as some scientists forecast in worst-case scenarios, would flood many coastal cities that are home to millions of people around the world, previous research has shown. Global sea levels have already risen seven to eight inches since 1900.

The total amount of ice in the Antarctic, if it all melted, would be enough to raise sea levels 57 metres. But that pace is increasing as the climate warms faster.

Huge breakaway Antarctic iceburg alarms scientists.

The recent melting rate is 15 per cent higher than what a study found past year.

"This region is probably more sensitive to climate change than has traditionally been assumed, and that's important to know, because it holds even more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula together", said Rignot.

Most of the ice lost is linked to circumpolar deep water (CDW), concentrations of warm water being driven under ice sheets by a shift in southern westerly winds, the British Antarctic Survey said. This massive body of ice flows out into the ocean through a complex array of partially submerged glaciers and thick floating expanses of ice called ice shelves. "It shows that we can't ignore the East Antarctic and need to focus in on the areas that are losing mass most quickly, particularly those with reverse bed slopes that could result in rapid ice disintegration and sea-level rise".

Study co-author Professor Tim Naish supports a push to reduce emissions to protect the Antarctic ice sheet. Like a cork being pulled out of a wine bottle, scientists are concerned this will lead to a cascade of land-ice pouring into the ocean, resulting in rapid sea level rise. A loss of sea ice due to warming climate could trigger instability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet with dire implications for global sea levels.

The pacing of the most recent ice ages, for example, is attributable to changes in the shape of our planet's orbit around the sun as well as to cyclic changes in the tilt of the Earth on its axis and its "top-like" wobble on that axis, all of which combine to influence the distribution and intensity of solar radiation.

"Fourteen-thousand years ago sea level rose more than a foot a decade, for four centuries".

Related Articles