Friday, May 24, 2019

‘Thinned by extraordinary amounts:’ Glaciers in Antarctica melting at accelerating rates

"In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts."

Image Credit: Openews24

Glaciers in Antarctica are melting at an alarming rate.

According to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letter, which relied on 25 years of satellite data from 1992 to 2007, ice loss in both East and West Antarctica has raised global sea level by 4.6 millimeters in recent years. The study fitted the satellites with altimeters, an instrument that measures the height change to the ice sheets, to come to the conclusion that ice is melting five times faster than in the 90s, EcoWatch reported,.

“In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts,” Andy Shepherd, study lead author and Leeds University professor, said.

Ice loss is caused from warmer water temperatures, which melts the glaciers where they hit the sea bed, The Guardian reported. This causes the glaciers to slide into the ocean and melt. According to the study, there were some places where approximately 1,640 feet of thickness was lost. The thinning has “reached 300 miles into 600 miles ice streams,” EcoWatch reported.

“Using this unique data set, we’ve been able to identify the parts of Antarctica that are undergoing rapid, sustained thinning – regions that are changing faster than we would expect due to normal weather patterns,” Dr. Malcolm McMillan, co-head of the U.K. Center for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) and Lancaster University Environmental Sensing Reader said. “We can now clearly see how these regions have expanded through time, spreading inland across some of the most vulnerable parts of West Antarctica, which is critical for understanding the ice sheet’s contribution to global sea level rise.”

In a hypothetical situation, if the ice in West Antarctica completely melted as did the glaciers in East Antarctica, the world’s oceans would rise about 197 feet – enough to drown most coastal cities globally.

“The speed of drawing down ice from an ice sheet used to be spoken of in geological timescales, but that has now been replaced by people’s lifetimes,” Shepherd said.

This study is just another of its kind where scientists are warning the world that something needs to be done to stop the climate crisis that rages before us.

“Before we had useful satellite measurements from space, most glaciologists thought the polar ice sheets were pretty isolated from climate change and didn’t change rapidly at all,” Shepherd said. “Now we know that is not true.”

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