Antarctica has lost 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992, and that loss of ice has accelerated rapidly in the last five years, as highlighted by up to five studies published this week by the journal Nature Research.
In one of the most complete studies to date on the freezing state of the continent, an international group of 84 researchers analyzed data from multiple satellite surveys, from 1992 to 2017.
They discovered that Antarctica is currently losing ice about three times faster than it did until 2012, reaching a rate of more than 241,000 million tons (219 billion metric tons) per year. The total loss of ice during the 25-year period contributed to the sea level rise of approximately 8 millimeters and about 40%, that is, 3 millimeters, occurred in the last five years.
The millimeters of sea level rise may not seem like much, but previous studies suggested that the enormous ice sheets of Antarctica were not going to be affected by climate change. Now, the new findings hint that the continent’s ice sheet may not be as resistant to warming as was thought, and present a very different picture of the possible contributions of Antarctica to a rising ocean.
Consider this: if all Antarctic ice melted, the resulting water could raise sea levels to levels of approximately 58 meters, according to the researchers.
Collectively, the published studies evaluate past and present conditions in Antarctica to determine the impact of climate change and human activity on the continent and present strategies for the future of its ecology and geology.
Although Antarctica is covered with ice throughout the year, its ice sheets recede and progress in annual cycles, a pattern that has persisted for thousands of years. But clues from the geological record suggest that the climate change that leads to the loss of ice in Antarctica is going much faster than during its periods of ice loss in the distant past.