Antarctica has tripled its ice loss to a total of 241.4 billion tons between 2012 and 2017, increasing sea levels by 0.12 inches within that timeframe.
From 1992 to 2012, ice loss in the continent was at a steady rate of about 83.8 billion tons per year, increasing the sea level by 0.008 inches a year. Looking at the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992 to 2017, an international team of scientists noted a threefold increase in ice loss during the most recent years.
Their analysis revealed that ice in West Antarctica and at the Antarctic Peninsula has melted at a rapid rate than ever before. In East Antarctica, meanwhile, the team noted that ice sheet was no longer growing at a rate that it used to grow before.
The recent analysis, conducted by 84 scientists from 44 international organizations, was touted as the most complete and robust study of the Antarctic ice sheet as of present.
Antarctica Melting At Accelerated Pace
The study, published in Nature on June 13, noted that West Antarctica underwent the most drastic change in the region. It lost 58.4 billion tons of ice per year in the 1990's. Since 2012, it has been losing 175.3 billion tons of ice a year. The Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers in West Antarctica are receding rapidly because of the temperature coming from the ocean.
There has also been a severe ice loss happening at the Antarctic Peninsula. Ice-shelf has been collapsing one after another in the region, producing an increase of 27.6 billion tons in ice loss since the early 2000s.
Meanwhile, the opposite is happening in the East Antarctic where ice sheet has been growing to a steady balance during the past 25 years. The region acquired an average of 5.5 billion tons of ice per year. The team, however, described this as "a reduced growth of the ice sheet."
Antarctica Ice Melt A Wake-Up Call
The study noted that Antarctica stored enough frozen water that can elevate global sea levels by 190 feet if the whole of the region were to thaw out. The study will be significant to gain deeper insight into how climate change has already affected the planet and how it could impact Earth further into the future.
"According to our analysis, there has been a steep increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years," reiterated Andrew Shepherd, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Leeds.
"This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities," Shepherd highlighted.
The findings were based on data acquired using a method called Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise. Scientists from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and the European Space Agency worked together for the study.