Greenland, Antarctica ice loss accelerating

Katie Ramirez
March 15, 2020

While melting glaciers are a major contributor to rising sea levels, ice sheet melt-off has become increasingly significant in the last decade.

As a result, this will lead to an extra 17 centimetres of sea level rise by 2100.

Polar ice caps like Greenland and Antarctica are releasing six times more ice than throughout the 1990s, contributing to a higher sea level that could produce annual flooding by 2100 in areas in which now 400 million people live, experts have warned.

Scientists have said that both poles are unequivocal in its assessment during a comprehensive review of satellite data, and between these, Greenland and Antarctica have lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice from 1992 to 2017. A number of scientists believe that specific regions, such as Greenland and West Antarctica have passed the point-of-no-return, and are now destined to lose the entirety of their ice into the sea.

The kilometres-thick ice sheets atop land masses at the planet's extremities sloughed off 6.4 trillion tonnes of mass from 1992 through 2017, adding almost 2cm to the global watermark, according to an assessment by 89 researchers, the most comprehensive to date. 60 percent of this ice loss that caused the sea levels to rise was in Greenland, while the remaining 40 percent occurred in Antarctica.

In its fifth assessment report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that the global sea level would rise by 53 centimeters by 2100 and it is estimated that this would put 360 million people at risk of coastal flooding.

According to the worldwide team of climatologists behind the research, the unprecedented rate of melt has already contributed 0.7 inches (1.78 centimeters) to global sea level rise in the last three decades, putting the planet on track for the worst-case climate warming scenario laid out in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest report.

Last summer's Arctic heat wave will likely top the 2011 record for polar ice sheet loss of 552 billion tons, they reported in a pair of studies published Wednesday in Nature.

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"It's only half a degrees centigrade above freezing but it's enough to cause the glaciers to destabilise and to pour more ice into the sea".

Data collected from satellite images, computer modeling, and in situ measurements has uncovered that the annual rate of ice loss from both regions increased from 81 to 475 billion tonnes over the last 30 years.

The remainder of Greenland's ice losses is due to rising air temperature, which creates roaring rivers of ocean-bound melt-water in summer.

"Our project is a great example of the importance of worldwide collaboration to tackle problems that are global in scale". I would expect a similar increase in Greenland mass loss for 2019.

"It is very important to keep monitoring the big ice sheets to know how much they raise sea level every year".

IMBIE is supported by ESA's EO Science for Society programme and ESA's Climate Change Initiative, which generates accurate and long-term satellite-derived datasets for 21 Essential Climate Variables to characterise the evolution of the Earth system.

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