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Antarctica’s Ice Melting Six Times Faster Due To Global Warming: Study

Warming ocean water will only speed up ice loss in the future.

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Antarctica, Ice
The Collins glacier on King George Island has retreated in the last 10 years and shows signs of fragility, in the Antarctic, Feb. 2, 2018. VOA

Global warming is melting ice in Antarctica faster than ever before — about six times more per year now than 40 years ago — leading to increasingly high sea levels worldwide, scientists warned on Monday.

Already, Antarctic melting has raised global sea levels more than half an inch (1.4 centimeters) between 1979 and 2017, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer-reviewed US journal.

And the pace of melting is expected to lead to disastrous sea level rise in the years to come, according to lead author Eric Rignot, chair of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine.

“As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries,” Rignot said.

Iceberg, Antarctica
Iceberg, Antarctica, Pixabay

A rise of 1.8 meters (six feet) by 2100, as some scientists forecast in worst-case scenarios would flood many coastal cities that are home to millions of people around the world, previous research has shown.

For the current study, researchers embarked on the longest-ever assessment of ice mass in the Antarctic, across 18 geographic regions.

Data came from high-resolution aerial photographs taken by NASA planes, along with satellite radar from multiple space agencies.

Researchers discovered that from 1979 to 1990, Antarctica shed an average of 40 billion tons of ice mass annually.

By the years 2009 to 2017, the ice loss had increased more than sixfold, to 252 billion tons per year.

A glacier is shown in a photo taken in Half Moon Bay, Antarctica, Feb. 18, 2018.
A glacier is shown in a photo taken in Half Moon Bay, Antarctica, Feb. 18, 2018. VOA

Even more worrying, researchers found that areas that were once considered “stable and immune to change” in East Antarctica, are shedding quite a lot of ice, too, said the study.

“The Wilkes Land sector of East Antarctica has, overall, always been an important participant in the mass loss, even as far back as the 1980s, as our research has shown,” Rignot said.

Also Read: Emission of CO2 Levels Higher In Antarctica Than Believed

“This region is probably more sensitive to climate than has traditionally been assumed, and that’s important to know, because it holds even more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula together.”

Warming ocean water will only speed up ice loss in the future, Rignot said.

Recent research has shown that oceans are heating up faster than previously thought, setting new heat records in the last few years. (VOA)

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Greenland Lost More than 2 Billion Tons of Ice, with over 40% of Country Experiencing Unusual Melting

The researchers found that the Greenland melt event was due to an atmospheric circulation

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Greenland, Ice, Country
The high melt is unusual so early in the season but not unprecedented. Pixabay

 In a sign that this year could once again set records for loss in Greenland ice, researchers have found that the island’s ice sheet lost more than two gigatonnes (a gigaton is equal to one billion tonnes) of ice in just a day this week due to a widespread melting event.

“Yesterday (13th June), we calculate #Greenland #icesheet lost more than 2 Gt of ice, melt was widespread but didn’t quite get to #SummitCamp which was just below 0 degree C. The high melt is unusual so early in the season but not unprecedented,” said the Greenland Twitter handle of the Arctic monitoring web-site Polar Portal of the Danish Arctic research institutions.

The researchers found that the Greenland melt event was due to an atmospheric circulation in the Arctic and North Atlantic.

The sudden spike in melting on June 13 this year is comparable to some spikes seen seven years ago, Thomas Mote, a research scientist at the University of Georgia who studies Greenland’s climate, told CNN.

Greenland, Ice, Country
Researchers have found that the island’s ice sheet lost more than two gigatonnes (a gigaton is equal to one billion tonnes) of ice in just a day this week due to a widespread melting event. Pixabay

Melt off early in the season makes it easier for further ice loss later in the season, the researcher said.

The Greenland melt season started very early this season – on April 30, which is the second earliest in a record that stretches back to 1980, according to scientists from the Danish Meteorological Institute.

“On average, the melt season starts around the 26th May, so we are almost a full month earlier this year” scientist Peter Langen said in a statement released by Polar Portal.

This year’s start of April 30 is second only to 2016, when a very unusual weather pattern caused a very early start to the melt season in mid-April.

Also Read- Scientists Create Virtual Biopsy Device to Detect Skin Tumors

Number three on the list is May 2, 2010 when a similar weather pattern also caused early melt onset closely followed by May 7 in 2017. The top four have all occurred within the last 10 years.

One reason why melting has spiked this year is that Greenland experienced a dry and cold winter.

“Through most of the winter, the majority of the ice sheet has been unusually dry, which sets it up for enhanced melting – if the right weather conditions occur – in the summer this year” scientist Ruth Mottram was quoted as saying.

The Polar Portal is a collaboration between DMI, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) and Technical University of Denmark (DTU) under the Danish Ministry for Energy, Utilities and Climate. (IANS)