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Close To A Fourth Of Ice In West Antarctica At Risk Of Collapse

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An iceberg at the Antarctic Peninsula. Researchers warned that the ice loss in Antarctica would drive global sea level rise. Ice thinning has spread across 24 percent of West Antarctica, affecting two of its largest ice streams.  ( Andrew Shepherd )

Nearly 25 percent of glacier ice in West Antarctica is affected by ice thinning caused by ocean melting, leaving it in serious danger of collapse.

Ice Thinning In Major Parts Of Antarctica

Scientists at the Center for Polar Observation and Modelling, or CPOM, used 25 years worth of data from the European Space Agency's satellite altimeter and a model of the regional climate in the continent to analyze the changes in snow and ice across Antarctica.

They found that Antarctica's ice sheet has thinned by as much as 122 meters in some places, with most of the damage occurring in West Antarctica. Moreover, they found that the damage is accelerating very rapidly.

According to the study published in the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters, since 1992, ice thinning has spread across almost a quarter of West Antarctica. Its largest ice streams, the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, are now losing ice five times faster than when the survey began.

More Than Just Seasonal Changes

The researchers also separated changes in ice sheets due to regular weather patterns in the content and those that occur due to factors caused by climate change, including rising ocean temperature.

"In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts, and so we set out to show how much was due to changes in climate and how much was due to weather," stated Andy Shepherd, a polar scientist at the University of Leeds and the lead author of the study.

Ice Loss In Antarctica Driving Global Sea Level Rise

The study also found that the ice loss in East and West Antarctica have caused a sea level rise of 4.6 millimeters around the world since 1992.

"We can see clearly now that a wave of thinning has spread rapidly across some of Antarctica's most vulnerable glaciers, and their losses are driving up sea levels around the planet," added Shephard.

That might not seem much right now, but the accelerating rate of ice thinning and ice loss in the continent would contribute a much greater rise in global sea level. Antarctica holds the biggest reserve of frozen, landlocked water on Earth. If the ice melt continues at its current rate, it will spell disaster to the entire world.

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