Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Earth Lost Over 30 Trillion Tons of Ice in Under 30 Years, Scientists 'Stunned' by Landmark Study

Climate
Earth Lost Over 30 Trillion Tons of Ice in Under 30 Years, Scientists 'Stunned' by Landmark Study
Sea ice breaking up in Greenland. steve_is_on_holiday / E+ / Getty Images

The Earth has lost 28 trillion tonnes (approximately 31 trillion U.S. tons) of ice in just 23 years, and the climate crisis is largely to blame.


The finding comes in a review paper published in The Cryosphere this month that used satellite data and numerical modelling to calculate all the ice that melted worldwide between 1994 and 2017.

"In the past researchers have studied individual areas – such as the Antarctic or Greenland – where ice is melting. But this is the first time anyone has looked at all the ice that is disappearing from the entire planet," study coauthor and director of Leeds University's Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling Andy Shepherd told The Guardian. "What we have found has stunned us."

Twitter

Arctic sea ice, Antarctic ice shelves, mountain glaciers, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and Southern Ocean sea ice all lost mass during the study period, the researchers wrote. About 68 percent of those losses were caused by warmer air temperatures, while the remaining 32 percent were caused by warmer ocean water.

"There can be little doubt that the vast majority of Earth's ice loss is a direct consequence of climate warming," the researchers wrote, as The Guardian reported.

In fact, the total ice loss recorded matches the worst-case scenario predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And it's likely to get worse. The researchers prognosticate a meter (approximately three feet) of sea level rise by 2100.

"To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands," Shepherd told The Guardian.

But sea level rise isn't the only consequence of ice melt. For one thing, the melting ice exposes darker ocean waters or soil, which absorb the sun's heat rather than reflect it, increasing global heating. The fresh water melting from ice sheets also disrupts Arctic and Antarctic ocean ecosystems, while the loss of mountain glaciers threatens the drinking water of several communities.

"What more can be said? What further evidence are we waiting for?" UK Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas tweeted in response to the news. "Feel so overwhelmingly sad - and so angry too. We can't say we didn't know. Are we really saying we just didn't care?"

This has been a bad summer for ice news. Another study published this month found that Greenland's ice sheet had reached the "point of no return" and would continue to melt even if the climate crisis were halted. A third study found that Greenland lost a record amount of ice in 2019.

An Exxon oil refinery is seen at night. Jim Sugar / Getty Images

Citigroup will strive to reach net-zero greenhouse gas pollution across its lending portfolio by 2050 and in its own operations by 2030, the investment group announced Monday.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Arctic fox's coat changes from the mixed gold and black of summer to a mostly pure white fur in winter. Dennis Fast / VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

By Jacob Job

Maybe you've seen a video clip of a fluffy white fox moving carefully through a frozen landscape. Suddenly it leaps into the air and dive-bombs straight down into the snow. If so, you've witnessed the unusual hunting skills of an Arctic fox.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Young protesters participate in the Global Strike For Future march to raise climate change awareness in September 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. Thierry Monasse / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

An international survey conducted by the University of Cambridge and YouGov ahead of this November's COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference, and published on Monday, found overwhelming support around the world for governments taking more robust action to protect the environment amid the worsening climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A boy plays basketball in front of an oil well covered with large colorful flowers and located next to Beverly Hills High School. Wells like this have been hidden throughout Los Angeles. Faces of Fracking / Flickr

While the hazards of fracking to human health are well-documented, first-of-its-kind research from Environmental Health News shows the actual levels of biomarkers for fracking chemicals in the bodies of children living near fracking wells far higher than in the general population.

Read More Show Less
The Sierra Nevada mountains are among the ranges most at-risk for early snowpack melt. CampPhoto / Getty Images

As the planet warms, mountain snowpack is increasingly melting. But "global warming isn't affecting everywhere the same," Climate Scientist Amato Evan told the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

Read More Show Less