Antarctica lost three trillion tonnes of ice in blink of an eye

James Marshall
June 20, 2018

Since 1989, more than 150 calculations of the loss of Antarctic ice mass have been made. They attribute the threefold increase in ice loss from the continent since 2012 to a combination of increased rates of ice melt in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, and reduced growth of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

The study worked 84 scientists and 44 worldwide organizations who work for NASA and ESA. Though it takes quite a long time to make any key changes happen to that much amount of ice, Antarctica is melting quicker than anyone expected, a recent study says this published in the journal.

Until 2012 the loss of ice in Antarctica comprised only 0.2 mm per year to sea level and, apparently, not increased.

But another decade after that, between 2012 and 2017, that number was 219 billion metric tons of ice lost per year.

Between 1992 and 1997, it was losing ice at an average rate of 49 billion metric tons (49 gigatons) a year. Models suggest that under a low-emissions scenario, where the world commits to "peaking" and then steadily reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the near future, complete destabilization of the West Antarctic ice sheet is avoidable. Most of this loss came from the huge Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, which are retreating rapidly due to ocean-induced melting.

Antarctica's potential contribution to global sea level rise from its land-held ice is nearly 7.5 times greater than all other sources of land-held ice in the world combined. Their report explains how ice shelf thinning and collapse have triggered an increase in the continent's contribution to sea level rise.

Scientists from around the world calculate that in the last quarter century, the southern-most continent's ice sheet melted into enough water to cover Texas to a depth of almost 13 feet (4 meters).

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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