Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Antarctica is now melting three times faster than ever before

The western edge of one of the largest icebergs ever recorded it broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula last year. The continent’s rate of ice loss is speeding up contributing even more to rising sea levels according to a new study. (NATHAN KURTZ  NY Antarctica is now melting three times faster than ever before
Doris Mccormick | 17 June, 2018, 10:44

During the same period, the loss of ice for the Antarctic Peninsula went up from seven billion tonnes annually to 33 billion tonnes annually.

The loss of ice was especially significant in West Antarctica, where the melting ice tripled over the last 25 years, from 53 billion tonnes in 1992 to 159 billion tonnes per year in 2017.

The Imbie study is led by Andrew Shepherd, Professor of Earth Observation and Director of the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.

In the last quarter century, the southern-most continent's ice sheet - a key indicator of climate change - melted into enough water to cover Texas to a depth of almost 13 feet (4 meters), scientists calculated.

"But where there is loss of sea ice, storm-generated ocean swells can easily reach the exposed ice shelf, causing the first few kilometres of its outer margin to flex".

Overall, world sea levels have risen about 20 cm in the past century.

In another paper, a team of researchers has found that the land-based sectors of East Antarctic ice sheet did not retreat significantly over land during approximately 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago, when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were similar to today's levels.

"Ice shelves fringe about three quarters of the Antarctic coast and they play a crucially important role in moderating sea level rise by buttressing and slowing the movement of glacial ice from the interior of the continent to the ocean". As the ice shelves thin and weaken, they provide less resistance to ice flow from the continent to the sea.

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The Antarctic ice sheet is melting at a way faster rate than at any previously recored time, a new study shows. "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".

Benjamin Smith, senior principal investigator at the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory, said climate scientists are getting a better handle on crucial questions relating to the impact of Antarctic melting, thanks to more advanced satellites.

Though the Antarctic Peninsula is plastered in snow and ice, the region is losing ice at an increasing rate. Before 2012, the area was actually gaining ice.

"The next piece of the puzzle is to understand the processes driving this change", Durham University's Pippa Whitehouse said. The findings helped confirm that the Greenland Ice Sheet is a sensitive responder to global climate change. Limiting global warming to 2℃ by 2100, as set by the Paris Agreement, looks increasingly unlikely.

Greenpeace which is campaigning for a large tract of the ocean surrounding the Antarctic to be made into the world's biggest ocean sanctuary, said government's must heed the warning.

To gauge the ice sheet's stability, researchers took ultra-sensitive analytical measurements of chemical signatures in sediment samples taken from the ice sheet's sea bed.

"Considering sea level rise, for example, the future rise could be a little smaller or a little larger, or a lot larger - there is a "long tail" on the "bad" side".

"The increasing mass loss that they're finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that's changing most rapidly and it's the area that we're most anxious about, because it's below sea level", said Christine Dow, a glaciologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who was not involved in the research.

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