Antarctica is losing its ice at an alarming rate than four decades ago, a new study says, but it turns out, the problem is just the tip of an iceberg.
A study from the University of California, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on the harrowing plight of Antarctica and can possibly say what's in store for global sea levels. The research, led by Eric Rignot, looked at the pattern of ice loss in the southernmost continent since 1979 and noted that the ice has been melting since that time at a staggering pace.
Antarctica Ice Melt Faster Than Before
This is not the first time that such study proved that there is rapid ice melting in Antarctica. However, the recent research points out that the rate at which it is happening is not consistent in every year. It found that this is occurring faster than the previous decades.
From 1979 to 1990, ice loss was estimated at 40 gigatons per year, but this rate dramatically increased up to 252 gigatons per annum from 2009 to 2017. This means that the rise is up by six times, which is 15 percent higher than what a study noted last year, with melting in the most recent decades reaching up to 280 percent than the first half of the 40-year period.
The researchers analyzed the 176 basins surrounding Antarctica and saw that ice melt is rapid in areas where circumpolar deep water, or warm, salty water, touches the edge of the ice sheets. What's more, they specifically pointed out that East Antarctica is shedding about 51 gigatons in a year, which calls for a concern because the place used to be touted as stable.
"[M]elting is taking place in the most vulnerable parts of Antarctica ... parts that hold the potential for multiple meters of sea level rise in the coming century or two," Rignot said.