Friday, 19 October, 2018

Antarctic ice melting faster

Sea level contribution due to the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2017 from data gathered by international Antarctica Has Lost 3 Trillion Tonnes of Ice Since '92
Elijah Vega | 14 June, 2018, 06:09

Spread out over the roughly 360 million square kilometers of Earth's oceans, that accounts to over 7 millimetres of sea level rise - directly from the additional volume of water. Their results - known formally as the "Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise" (IMBIE) - were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Changes in global sea level, from 1992 to 2017, due to contributions from the Antarctic ice sheet.

"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".

Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate. But what concerns scientists is the balance of how much snow and ice accumulates in a given year versus the amount that is lost.

"According to our analysis, there has been a steep increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years", he added.

An global team of polar scientists found that melting in Antarctica has jumped sharply from an average of 76 billion tonnes per year prior to 2012, to around 219 billion tonnes each year between 2012 and 2017.

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

Overall between 1992 and 2017, Antarctica's ice sheet lost 3 trillion tons of ice - enough water to cover Texas to a depth of almost 13 feet, scientists calculated.

East Antarctica has sometimes been a focus of attention for people who deny the science of global warming.

NASA says ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, raising sea levels by 0.12 inch (3 millimeters), a faster rise than we've seen at any time in the past 25 years.

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"The fate of Antarctica, the fate of Greenland, is the fate of Miami", she said.

According to NASA, the data for this study was gathered by over a dozen different satellites - NASA's ICESat mission, the NASA/German Aerospace Center twin GRACE satellites, the European Space Agency's Envisat and CryoSat-2 satellites, the German Aerospace Center TerraSAR-X satellite, the European Union's Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites, the Italian Space Agency's COSMO-SkyMed satellite constellation, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Advanced Land Observatory System, and the Canadian Space Agency's RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2 satellites.

They also said governments should take note. "And we find that by combining all of the available measurements we can iron out the problems that individual techniques have".

"The increasing mass loss that they're finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that's changing most rapidly and it's the area that we're most anxious about, because it's below sea level, " said Christine Dow, a glaciologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who was not involved in the research.

The high seas are getting even higher, and all that water is largely coming from a colossal Antarctic ice melt that has gotten much worse in recent years.

Shepherd and his team ran similar calculations five years ago, using 20 years of data, but were unable to say much except that Antarctica seemed to be losing mass at a steady rate.

This study will help researchers measure the impacts of climate change and predict future rates of ice loss. This increase has been very small compared to the losses recorded from the rest of the ice sheet, though.

"We depend upon the satellite measurements to not only tell us how the ice sheets respond but also to make these calculations to sea-level contribution", Shepherd said.

Worryingly, the paper demonstrates that the rate of ice loss has tripled in recent times. The latter is increasingly being viewed as posing a potential planetary emergency, because of its enormous size and its role as a gateway that could allow the ocean to someday access the entirety of West Antarctica, turning the marine-based ice sheet into a new sea.

"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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