Saturday, 16 February, 2019

Ice from Antarctica melting at a rapid pace

Getz Ice Shelf Earth's tilt may speed up global warming - study
Sandra Phillips | 17 January, 2019, 00:27

"The places undergoing changes in Antarctica are not limited to just a couple places", Rignot said.

Rignot said that as global warming and ozone depletion continue to send ocean heat towards Antarctica, the continent's melting ice will contribute to sea level rise.

The team was able to discern that between 1979 and 1990, Antarctica shed an average of 40 billion tons of ice mass annually.

And that melt-rate has been accelerating in the most recent decades, up 280% in the second half of the almost 40 years compared to the first half, Rignot and his colleagues calculated.

"Our main concern is just trying to figure out what's going to happen to those ice sheets in the future so that we can perhaps better prepare for resulting change particularly as sea levels go up".

By far, the most ice in Antarctica is concentrated in the east.

Sea levels could rise by "metres" because Antarctic ice is melting six times as quickly as before, scientists have warned.

While the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has always been known to be losing ice, the colder temperatures and with a base mostly above sea level, scientist believed the East sheet would be immune to global changes.

The scientists combined 40 years of satellite images and climate modelling and found the East Antarctic Ice Sheet - considered largely insulated from the ravages of climate change - may also be melting at an accelerating rate.

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The ice sheet is buffered by these warmer waters by sea-ice but as emissions continue to rise, that sea-ice is slowly disappearing, making the ice sheet more vulnerable to melting, Mr Levy said.

Climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, told Science magazine it "changes the ball game for sea level rise in this century".

The new research is consistent in some ways with a major study published past year by a team of 80 scientists finding that Antarctic ice losses have tripled in a decade and now total 219 billion tons annually.

The authors of the study, like Rignot and his team, found that the points where the continental ice meets the warming oceans are especially sensitive to rapid ice loss.

"The mass loss is dominated by enhanced glacier flow in areas closest to warm, salty, subsurface circumpolar deep water, including East Antarctica, which has been a major contributor over the entire period", a statement in the study said.

"Sea ice creates a barrier between the ocean and the ice".

Photo taken on December 28, 2017 shows a penguin standing on sea ice in Antarctica.

The new research suggests that a reduction in sea ice due to climate change would erode the barrier keeping the ice sheet - including the parts of it below sea level - in place. "They seem to be more extensive than what we thought".

Currently, Antarctica's sea ice is at the lowest January levels since detailed observations began in 1979, according to data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. During this period, global sea levels rose by nearly 13 millimeters (half an inch) and might continue to rise at a higher rate than previously estimated. To prevent climate catastrophe, we urgently need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by switching to renewable, non-polluting fuels.

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