Quantcast

Antarctica’s Ice Is Melting 5 Times Faster Than in the 90s

Climate
A satellite image of Antarctica's Pine Island glacier, which is melting at five times 1990s levels. Planet Observer / Getty Images

Yet another study has shown that glaciers in Antarctica are melting at accelerating rates.

Almost 25 percent of the West Antarctic ice shelf is now thinning, and the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers are losing ice at five times the rate they were in the early 1990s, CNN reported.


"In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts," study lead author and Leeds University Prof. Andy Shepherd told The Guardian.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, comes four months after another study of the entire Antarctic continent found that it was losing ice at six times the rate it was 40 years ago. The latest study found that ice loss from both East and West Antarctica had raised global sea levels by 4.6 millimeters since 1992, according to CNN.

The study relied on 25 years of satellite data covering 1992 to 2017. The satellites were fitted with altimeters to measure height changes to the ice sheets. Researchers then used weather models to separate seasonal variation due to snow fall from melting and ice loss caused by long term climate change, BBC News explained.

"Using this unique dataset, we've been able to identify the parts of Antarctica that are undergoing rapid, sustained thinning―regions that are changing faster than we would expect due to normal weather patterns," co-head of the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) and Lancaster University Environmental Sensing Reader Dr. Malcolm McMillan told BBC News. "We can now clearly see how these regions have expanded through time, spreading inland across some of the most vulnerable parts of West Antarctica, which is critical for understanding the ice sheet's contribution to global sea level rise."

That understanding is showing a contribution at the high end of projections. Shepherd told BBC News that the south pole's contribution to sea level rise by 2100 was likely to be 10 centimeters (approximately four inches) higher than the five centimeters (approximately two inches) predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"There is a 3,000km (approximately 1,850-mile) section of coastline ― including the Bellingshausen, Amundsen and Marie Byrd Land sections ― that is clearly not properly modelled because that's where all the ice is coming from, and more ice than was expected," he told BBC News.

The major driver of ice loss is warm water that melts the glaciers where they hit the sea bed, The Guardian explained. The glaciers then slide faster into the ocean and grow thinner. In some places, glaciers lost more than 100 meters (approximately 1,640 feet) of thickness. The thinning is also spreading inwards: in some places, thinning had reached 300 miles into 600 mile ice streams.

"More than 50% of the Pine Island and Thwaites glacier basins have been affected by thinning in the past 25 years. We are past halfway and that is a worry," Shepherd told The Guardian.

If all the ice in West Antarctica were to melt, it would raise sea levels about five meters, enough to flood many coastal cities. If East Antarctica also melted, seas would rise 60 meters (approximately 197 feet).

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Earthjustice

By Robert Valencia

In April 2018, Afro-Colombian activist Francia Márquez won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, thanks to her work to retake her community's ancestral territories from illegal gold mining. However, her international recognition comes at a very risky price.

Read More Show Less

By Stuart Braun

A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Bruno Vincent / Staff / Getty Images

Toy maker Hasbro wants to play in the eco-packaging game. The board game giant will ditch its plastic packaging by 2022. The move means that games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Operation will no longer have shrink wrap, window sheets, plastic bags or elastic bands, as the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
Vaping impaired the circulatory systems of people in a new study. bulentumut / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Vaping one time — even without nicotine — can damage blood vessels, reduce blood flow and create dangerous toxins, according to a new study published in the journal Radiology.

Read More Show Less
A man spreads pesticides on a plantation of vegetables in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. Ze Martinusso / Moment Open / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Pointing to the deaths of more than half a billion bees in Brazil over a period of just four months, beekeepers, experts and activists are raising concerns about the soaring number of new pesticides greenlighted for use by the Brazilian government since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January — and the threat that it poses to pollinators, people and the planet.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

By Elliott Negin

On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

Read More Show Less
The study looked at three groups of diverse lizards from South America. Daniel Pincheira-Donoso
  1. Cold-climate lizards that give live birth to their offspring are more likely to be driven to extinction than their egg-laying cousins as global temperatures continue to rise, new research suggests.
Read More Show Less
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Denmark isn't interested in selling Greenland to the U.S., so now President Trump doesn't want to visit.

Read More Show Less