10-feet. That is how much the sea level could rise this century if the oceans continue to rise at their current rate.
A new study on Antarctic sea ice collapse, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that warming ocean waters produced a 6-fold increase in annual mass loss from the Antarctic ice sheet between 1979 and 2017. The continent has lost 278 billions tons of ice per year since 2009 compared to the 44 billion a year it was losing in the 1980s.
Even just compared to last year, Antarctic ice is melting 15 percent faster. East Antarctica, which was thought to be relatively stable year to year, is now losing 56 billion tons of ice per year. The study’s lead author, glaciologist Eric Rignot, senior project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says “This region is probably more sensitive to climate [change] 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.”
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries,” adds Rignot.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) contains enough ice to raise sea levels 20 feet, while the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) contains enough to raise them 170 feet. Although it would take centuries to melt all of the ice completely, the researchers say that there could be a devastating sea level rise in this century.
The study was conducted by Rignot and his team and comprises the longest-ever assessment of the Antarctic ice mass. The project spanned four decades, during which the team examined 18 regions encompassing 176 basins, as well as surrounding islands.
Judging by the fact that recent studies have labeled last year as the hottest on record, with increasing ocean warming, it is likely that the predictions based on this data will become reality if the United States, and the world, don’t take drastic action soon. The oceans currently provide a critical buffer for the rest of the planet, absorbing 93 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases humans dump into the atmosphere.