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6.4 Trillion Tons of Ice Lost: Antarctica, Greenland Melting Six Times Faster Than in the 1990s
Science & Technology

6.4 Trillion Tons of Ice Lost: Antarctica, Greenland Melting Six Times Faster Than in the 1990s

An aerial view of the icebergs close to Kulusuk Island, off the southeastern shoreline of Greenland, a area that’s exhibiting an accelerated charge of ice loss. Credit score: NASA Goddard House Flight Middle

The 2 areas have misplaced 6.4 trillion tons of ice in three a long time; unabated, this charge of melting might trigger flooding that impacts tons of of thousands and thousands of individuals by 2100.

Observations from 11 satellite tv for pc missions monitoring the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have revealed that the areas are dropping ice six instances quicker than they had been in the 1990s. If the present melting pattern continues, the areas might be on monitor to match the “worst-case” state of affairs of the Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change (IPCC) of an additional 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) of sea stage rise by 2100.

The findings, revealed on-line March 12 in the journal Nature from a global staff of 89 polar scientists from 50 organizations, are the most complete evaluation up to now of the altering ice sheets. The Ice Sheet Mass Stability Intercomparison Train staff mixed 26 surveys to calculate adjustments in the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets between 1992 and 2018.

The evaluation was supported by NASA and the European House Company. The surveys used measurements from satellites together with NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite tv for pc and the joint NASA-German Aerospace Middle Gravity Restoration and Local weather Experiment. Andrew Shepherd at the College of Leeds in England and Erik Ivins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California led the examine.

Swimming pools of meltwater in southwestern Greenland’s ice sheet as noticed by a NASA satellite tv for pc in 2016. Credit score: NASA Goddard House Flight Middle

The staff calculated that the two ice sheets collectively misplaced 81 billion tons per 12 months in the 1990s, in contrast with 475 billion tons of ice per 12 months in the 2010s – a sixfold enhance. All whole, Greenland and Antarctica have misplaced 6.4 trillion tons of ice since the 1990s.

The ensuing meltwater boosted world sea ranges by 0.7 inches (17.8 millimeters). Collectively, the melting polar ice sheets are accountable for a 3rd of all sea stage rise. Of this whole sea stage rise, 60% resulted from Greenland’s ice loss and 40% resulted from Antarctica’s.

“Satellite tv for pc observations of polar ice are important for monitoring and predicting how local weather change might have an effect on ice losses and sea stage rise,” stated Ivins. “Whereas pc simulations enable us to make projections from local weather change eventualities, the satellite tv for pc measurements present prima facie, fairly irrefutable, proof.”

The IPCC in its Fifth Evaluation Report issued in 2014 predicted world sea ranges would rise 28 inches (71 centimeters) by 2100. The Ice Sheet Mass Stability Intercomparison Train staff’s research present that ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland tracks with the IPCC’s worst-case state of affairs.

Mixed losses from each ice sheets peaked at 552 billion tons per 12 months in 2010 and averaged 475 billion tons per 12 months for the the rest of the decade. The height loss coincided with a number of years of intense floor melting in Greenland, and final summer season’s Arctic warmth wave implies that 2019 will possible set a brand new document for polar ice sheet loss, however additional evaluation is required. IPCC projections point out the ensuing sea stage rise might put 400 million individuals in danger of annual coastal flooding by the finish of the century.

“Each centimeter of sea stage rise results in coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting individuals’s lives round the planet,” stated Shepherd.

As to what’s resulting in the ice loss, Antarctica’s outlet glaciers are being melted by the ocean, which causes them to hurry up. Whereas this accounts for the majority of Antarctica’s ice loss, it accounts for half of Greenland’s ice loss; the relaxation is attributable to rising air temperatures melting the floor of its ice sheet.

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