NASA/ESA Study Reveals Accelerating Antarctic Ice Loss
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
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Titled ‘Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017,’ the study finds that Antarctic ice loss has tripled since 2012, with 180 billion tonnes of melted ice entering the ocean annually.

The research team, comprised of 80 scientists from 42 international organizations, looked at the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992-2017, finding that ice losses raised global sea levels by 0.3 inches.

The study attributes the sharp increase in ice loss in recent years to the rising rates of ice melt in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, and reduced growth of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

20 June 2018: Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting more rapidly than previously thought, causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years, according to a study funded by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) that was published in the scientific journal Nature.

Titled ‘Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017,’ the study finds that Antarctic ice loss has tripled since 2012, with 180 billion tonnes of melted ice entering the ocean annually, amidst rising global temperatures.

The study comes at a time when global temperatures for the first five months of 2018 have been the highest on record for a La Niña year, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition, May 2018 was the fourth warmest May on record, according to NASA, and the year 2018 saw record warmth across parts of North America, Europe and Asia, and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

In addition, long-term warming due to record high concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere and high-impact weather events are also continuing, with floods killing dozens in East Africa, tropical cyclones hitting Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman, sand and dust storms occurring in India, and Pakistan experiencing heatwaves. In addition, the Caribbean is preparing for another hurricane season while still recovering from the devastation caused by the 2017 hurricane season. [WMO Press Release on Above Average Temperatures] [UNFCCC Press Release on Continuing Extreme Weather]

Antarctica’s potential contribution to sea level rise from land-held ice is almost 7.5 times greater than all other sources in the world combined.

Climate change mitigation would lessen the impact of these events, and, as the report contends, is critical to ensure that the Antarctic ice sheets do not collapse. Such a collapse would lead to: disastrous consequences for low-lying cities and communities, contamination of freshwater sources, and interference with agriculture by stunting crop growth. The study, the most complete assessment to date of Antarctic ice mass changes based on the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-Comparison Exercise (IMBIE), found that the ice sheet is melting at a rate that will contribute at least six inches to sea level rise by 2100 based on 24 satellite surveys of Antarctica.

The research team, comprised of 80 scientists from 42 international organizations, looked at the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992-2017, finding that ice losses raised global sea levels by 0.3 inches, with a sharp increase in ice loss in recent years. The study attributes the increase to the rising rates of ice melt in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, and reduced growth of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

According to NASA, Antarctica’s potential contribution to sea level rise from land-held ice is almost 7.5 times greater than all other sources in the world combined, and the continent stores enough frozen water to raise sea levels by 190 feet if it all melted. [NASA Press Release] [UNFCCC Press Release on Melting Ice Sheets in Antarctic] [Mass Balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017: Publication Landing Page]

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