Antarctica has lost almost 3 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992

Antarctica has lost almost 3 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992

Altogether, in those 25 years, Antarctica has lost more than a trillion tonnes of ice.

Two-fifths of that ice loss occurred in the last five years, a three-fold increase in the pace at which Antarctica is shedding its kilometres-thick casing, a consortium of 84 scientists reported in the journal Nature.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

If the volcanoes are active, they could erupt at any moment, melting vast amounts of ice and contributing to the already worrisome rising sea levels endangering large swathes of coastal populations around the globe. Just one East Antarctic glacier, an enormous mass dubbed Totten, could cause a sea-level rise equal to what could be triggered by the entirety of the West Antarctic sheet, the Washington Post notes.

Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate. The findings helped confirm that the Greenland Ice Sheet is a sensitive responder to global climate change.

The new findings are the result of the most complete satellite survey of Antarctic ice sheet change to date, involving 84 scientists from 44 global organizations (including NASA and the European Space Agency).

The team, which included researchers from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) in a project led by University of Waterloo Professor Christine Dow, found that warm ocean water flowing in channels beneath Antarctic ice shelves is thinning the ice from below so much that the ice in the channels is cracking. The absence of data about the East Antarctic Ice Sheet's response to warming in the past have hindered efforts to predict its role in future sea level rise.

Antarctica has lost about three trillion tonnes of ice since 1992 and scientists say the window of opportunity to prevent major meltdown of the icesheets is narrowing.

"The WAIS today is again retreating, but there was a time since the last Ice Age when the ice sheet was even smaller than it is now, yet it didn't collapse", Northern Illinois University professor Reed Scherer, one of the lead authors on the study, said in a statement.

The findings are an important development for the team of UTIG researchers and others who have spent many years acquiring data over areas of Antarctica that are particularly vulnerable to rapid ice loss.

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According to the study, the Antarctic melt is causing a sea level rise of half a millimeter per year.

"If you start removing mass from there, you can have a very large-scale evacuation of ice into the ocean and significant sea level rise, " she continued.

"Satellites have given us an awesome, continent-wide picture of how Antarctica is changing", said Dr. Pippa Whitehouse, a member of the IMBIE team from Durham University, according to a University of Leeds press release.

An global team of polar scientists found that melting in Antarctica has jumped sharply from an average of 76 billion tonnes per year prior to 2012, to around 219 billion tonnes each year between 2012 and 2017. "They allow us to test whether our models can reproduce present-day change and give us more confidence in our projections of future ice loss".

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window - perhaps no more than a decade - to cut greenhouse gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.

IMBIE was established with the support of NASA and the European Space Agency, to monitor the changes in ice-sheet cover around the world.

Dozens of the world's leading Antarctic researchers contributed to the paper, which updates an analysis that had run until 2011. Human exploration of Antarctica began little more than a century ago, and systematic scientific observation began only in the mid-20th century.

As warmer salt water erodes channels into the ice that attaches glaciers to stable land, it also generates massive vertical fractures splitting glaciers from above and below.

Under any scenario, oceans will continue to rise for several centuries, scientists say.

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