Ocean waves in Antarctica can trigger ice shelf collapse

Scientists lay out how to save a melting Antarctica -- and the grim future if we don't

"There has been a step increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade", said Leeds University professor Andrew Shepherd, co-leader of the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Exercise (ISMBE). Antarctica was losing around 49 billion tons of ice a year in the mid-1990s, which went up to an average 219 billion tons a year between 2012 and 2017, the study found. In these five years, Antarctica lost near about two hundred nineteen billion tons of its ice sheet each year.

Prior to 2012, ice was lost at a steady rate of about 83.8 billion tons (76 billion metric tons) per year, contributing about 0.008 inches (0.2 millimeters) a year to sea level rise. The Antarctic Peninsula - the portion of the continent that reaches out for the southern tip of South America - has seen an increase from an average of 7 billion tonnes per year, up to 33 billion tonnes per year in that same time period.

Most of Antarctica's ice loss measured in this study came from the West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula - which scientists have known were melting.

Lifting the ban could result in severe damage to the Antarctic environment, while the loss of land ice could result in unsustainable levels of tourism and the spread of unwanted invasive species. "If this kind of thing happens more in the future we have to be aware of that".

They also highlight the existential threat facing low-lying coastal cities and communities home to hundreds of millions of people.

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, NASA said.

Though the last group, led by Torsten Albrecht, wasn't involved in an observational work, their sophisticated modeling techniques did coincide with the first two studies and noted grounding line of the ice sheet was up to 200 km inland in the Weddell Sea and 400 km in the Ross Sea region.

"If we aren't already alert to the dangers posed by climate change, this should be an enormous wake-up call", he added. Unlike the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, though, it's been resistant to melt as conditions warm. Improving our understanding of how much Antarctica has contributed to sea level rise in the past, and how much it will contribute in the future, is vital to informing our response to climate change.

More news: Kim Jong-un suggests US, North Korea cease hostile military activities

In the last 25 years, the ice sheet melted enough water to cover the whole of Texas to a depth of four metres.

New and improved satellite missions, such as Sentinel-3, the recently launched Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) and the eagerly awaited ICESat-2, will continue to give researchers more detailed insights into the disappearance of Antarctic ice.

"With continued rise of what this type of study is pointing to, which is that the rise may substantially increase by the end of the century compared to historical rates, areas like Norfolk, Charleston, Miami, a lot of the southeast United States that's very flat, low terrain, particularly stand to really feel the effects of melting in Antarctica", he said.

"Satellites have given us an incredible, continent-wide picture of how Antarctica is changing", said Dr. Pippa Whitehouse, a member of the IMBIE team from Durham University, according to a University of Leeds press release. In light of the acceleration in ice loss we have observed over the past five years, we now find sea level rise from Antarctica to be tracking the IPCC's highest projection.

An ice-penetrating radar system, towed behind a snowmobile, turns up unusual features beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The accelerating pace of melting means rising sea levels could threaten coastal communities far earlier than scientists had expected. "There are no other plausible signals to be driving this other than climate change".

The melting of Antarctica is accelerating at an alarming rate, with about 3 trillion tons of ice disappearing since 1992, an global team of ice experts said in a new study.

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