Antarctica ice loss increases six fold since 1979


"As climate warming and ozone depletion send more ocean heat toward those sectors, they will continue to contribute to sea level rise from Antarctica in decades to come", said Rignot, who's also a senior project scientist at JPL.

The longest-ever assessment of Antarctic ice mass paints a bleak picture for the future.

New research from the University of California at Irvine (UCI) and NASA found the Antarctic lost 40 billion tonnes of melting ice to the ocean each year from 1979 to 1989.

By far, the most ice in Antarctica is concentrated in the east, where there is enough sea ice to drove 170 feet of sea level rise, compared to about 17 feet in the entire West Antarctic ice sheet.

Yearly loss of ice from Antarctica has increased by an alarming rate of 280 per cent between 2001 and 2017, according to a study which showed that accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch in the last four decades. But this study finds a vast quarter of eastern Antarctica is now becoming a bigger player and "is a great concern as well".

All of the ice of Antarctica holds the capacity for 57.2 metres of sea-level rise.

Lead author Richard Levy, from GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington, said the study showed the ice sheet was "highly sensitive" to changes in temperature. Scientists said it's likely that area has been more sensitive to climate change in recent years.

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The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68, calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on October 31, 2017, above Antarctica.

"What this study does is characterize the growth and decay of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and sheds light on what is forcing it to change", explains Meyers, a UW-Madison professor of geoscience and an expert on how climate responds to changes in solar radiation from Earth's astronomical motions. While this is certainly a lot, from 2009 to 2017 this number increased to an unthinkable 252 billion tonnes (278 billion tons).

"[But] the places undergoing changes in Antarctica are not limited to just a couple places".

A 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned the world could expect to see sea level rises of up to three feet by 2100 if our current carbon output continues unabated.

Two new studies released tell the same foreboding message - our planet's ice is melting at a frightening rate. Fast flowing inland ice streams of the West Antarctic are buttressed by floating ice shelves, which - if diminished or lost - raise the possibility of a runaway flow of West Antarctica's marine ice.

The sectors losing the most ice mass are adjacent to warm ocean waters, researchers said.

"In order for us to really ensure that we don't lose too much ice, we really need to work hard at getting those emissions - at least keeping them at what they are today but even trying to get them lower than they are today, we certainly can't let them get higher because all the evidence suggests that's just not good for the ice sheets".