Quantcast
Climate
The tongue of Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, which is melting at an accelerated pace. NASA ICE / James Yungel / CC BY 2.0

Antarctic Ice Melt Has Tripled in Five Years

Ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, according to the most comprehensive assessment of the state of South Pole ice to date, published in Nature Wednesday.


The Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE), as the assessment is called, involved 84 scientists, 44 international organizations and 24 satellite surveys and found that Antarctica had lost 219 billion tonnes of ice a year (approximately 241.41 billion U.S. tons) between 2012 and 2017, contributing 0.6 millimeters (approximately 0.02 inches) to global sea level rise, a Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) press release reported. Before 2012, ice loss held steady at 76 billion tonnes (approximately 83.78 billion U.S. tons) per year, for 0.2 millimeters (approximately 0.008 inches) of sea level rise.

"A three-fold increase now puts Antarctica in the frame as one of the largest contributors to sea-level rise," study co-leader and CPOM Director Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University told BBC News.

"The last time we looked at the polar ice sheets, Greenland was the dominant contributor. That's no longer the case," he said.

The largest amount of ice loss came from West Antarctica, especially its Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers. Ice sheet collapse on the Antarctic Peninsula and slow growth of the East Antarctic ice sheet also contributed.

The IMBIE assessment wasn't the only study published Wednesday with alarming news about the impacts of climate change on Antarctica.

A University of Waterloo study published in Science Advances discovered a mechanism that could further accelerate Antarctic ice loss.

The two year study found that rising ocean and air temperatures are both destabilizing ice shelves from below and also causing them to crack on top, which ups the chance they might break off, according to a University of Waterloo press release published by Phys.org.

Study leader Christine Dow, Canada research chair of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment, said the findings might shorten estimated timelines for ice shelf collapse and sea level rise.

"This study is more evidence that the warming effects of climate change are impacting our planet in ways that are often more dangerous than we perhaps had thought," Dow said. "There are many more vulnerable ice shelves in the Antarctic that, if they break up, will accelerate the processes of sea level rise."

A melt river on Antarctica's Nansen Ice Shelf

Won Sang Lee, Korea Polar Research Institute

A final study, also published in Nature Wednesday, gave readers a choice between catastrophe and hope. Researchers, including scientists from Imperial College London, compared what would happen to the ice and wildlife of the South Pole in 2070 under two scenarios: one in which lowered greenhouse gas emissions coincided with maintaining environmental regulations, and one in which emissions were allowed to rise and regulations to deteriorate, an Imperial College London press release reported.

In the worst case scenario, Antarctica would contribute 27 centimeters (approximately 10.63 inches) to global sea level rise, for a total sea level rise of more than a meter (approximately 3.28 feet). Ocean acidification would harm the shells of some sea creatures and the number of invasive species would increase tenfold.

If action is taken this decade, however, Antarctica would only contribute 6 centimeters (approximately 2.36 inches) to a total global sea level rise of around half a meter (approximately 1.64 feet), the shells of sea creatures would be safe and the number of invasive species would only increase by two times.

Imperial College London

"To avoid the worst impacts, we will need strong international cooperation and effective regulation backed by rigorous science. This will rely on governments recognising that Antarctica is intimately coupled to the rest of the Earth system, and damage there will cause problems everywhere," study co-author professor Martin Siegert from the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London said.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
350 .org / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Taking Your First Steps Into Local Climate Action

Yes, yes—it can feel daunting. The climate crisis is more urgent than it's ever been. Some days we feel like we're making good progress, when we hear of countries powered by 100 percent renewable energy or a big commitment to take on fossil fuel corporations from a city like New York. But other days, it's a heavy burden knowing there's so much more that needs to be done to unseat the fossil fuel industry and move to a just, Fossil Free, renewably-powered world.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

'Eating Animals' Drives Home Where Our Food Really Comes From

It started with a call from actress and animal rights activist Natalie Portman to author Jonathan Safran Foer. The latter had recently taken a break from novel-writing to publish 2009's New York Times best-selling treatise Eating Animals—an in-depth discussion of what it means to eat animals in an industrialized world, with all attendant environmental and ethical concerns. The two planned a meeting in Foer's Brooklyn backyard, and also invited documentary director Christopher Dillon Quinn (God Grew Tired of Us) over. The idea was to figure out how to turn Foer's sprawling, memoiristic book into a documentary that would ignite mainstream conversations around our food systems.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

A Ghanaian Chef Feeding His Country and Combating Food Waste

Ghanaian chef Elijah Amoo Addo is on a mission to feed his nation on the excesses the food industry creates. Since 2012, he has been collecting unwanted stock or food nearing its use-by date from suppliers, farmers and restaurants in Ghana to redistribute to orphanages, hospitals, schools and vulnerable communities through his not-for-profit organization Food for All Africa. They provide meals through a Share Your Breakfast program in addition to donating stock to be used later. The organization supports and encourages communities to farm and works with stakeholders within Ghana's food industry on ways to combat waste.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Tucuxi Amazon river dolphins (Sotalia fluviatilis). Projeto Boto

Hunting, Fishing Cause Dramatic Decline in Amazon River Dolphins

By Claire Asher

Populations of two species of river dolphin in the Amazon are halving every decade, according to the results of a twenty-two year survey.

The Amazon rainforest is home to the Amazon river dolphin, or Boto (Inia geoffrensis) and the Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis). But the results of a long-term study published in PLoS ONE show that both of these once abundant aquatic mammals are now in rapid decline in the Brazilian Amazon, likely due to hunting and fishing.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy

'Historic First': Nebraska Farmers Return Land to Ponca Tribe in Effort to Block Keystone XL

By Jessica Corbett

In a move that could challenge the proposed path of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline—and acknowledges the U.S. government's long history of abusing Native Americans and forcing them off their lands—a Nebraska farm couple has returned a portion of ancestral land to the Ponca Tribe.

Keep reading... Show less
Business

Sustainable Fashion Innovator Makes Fiber From Pineapple Leaves

In 1960, 97 percent of the fibers used in clothing came from natural materials. Today that number has fallen to 35 percent. But sustainable fashion veteran Isaac Nichelson wants to reverse that trend.

His company, Circular Systems S.P.C. (Social Purpose Corp.), has developed an innovative technology for turning food waste into thread, according to a Fast Company profile published Friday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment on April 26. EPA / YouTube

Chair of Senate Environment Panel to Call Scott Pruitt to Testify on Scandals

The Republican chairman of the Senate committee with oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to call the agency's embattled chief Scott Pruitt to testify, specifically in response to multiple scandals and investigations surrounding the administrator.

Through a spokesperson, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., informed Reuters of his decision to compel Pruitt to come before the Environment and Public Works Committee to answer questions about his alleged abuse of his office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Pexels

Senate’s Farm Bill Moves Forward—But What Is It, Anyway?

By Shannan Lenke Stoll

The Senate Agriculture Committee just passed its version of a farm bill in a 20-1 vote Thursday. It's one more step in what has been a delayed journey to pass a 2018–2022 bill before the current one expires in September.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!