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Antarctic Ice Melt Has Tripled in Five Years
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.
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Britain has been battered by back-to-back major storms in consecutive weekends, which flooded streets, submerged rail lines, and canceled flights. The most recent storm, Dennis, forced a group of young climate activists to cancel their first ever national conference, as CBS News reported.
At the 56th Munich Security Conference in Germany, world powers turned to international defense issues with a focus on "Westlessness" — the idea that Western countries are uncertain of their values and their strategic orientation. Officials also discussed the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East and the Libya crisis.
The climate crisis wreaks havoc on animals and plants that have trouble adapting to global heating and extreme weather. Some of the most obvious examples are at the far reaches of the planet, as bees disappear from Canada, penguin populations plummet in the Antarctic, and now polar bears in the Arctic are struggling from sea ice loss, according to a new study, as CNN reported.
- We can all take steps to reduce the environmental impact of our work-related travels.
- Individual actions — like the six described here — can cumulatively help prompt more collective changes, but it helps to prioritize by impact.
- As the saying goes: be the change you want to see in the world.