Antarctic ice melting faster

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Andrew Shepherd

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Andrew Shepherd"The study incorporates 24 independent satellite assessments

The findings show that before 2012, Antarctica lost ice at a steady rate of 76 billion tonnes per year - a 0.2mm per year contribution to sea level rise. But in the period between 2012 to 2017, the figure jumps to a staggering 219 billion tonnes per year. However, scientists say it's not enough to replace the amount of ice lost.

The only period when the quantity of ice lost dropped was between 1997 and 2002, when Antarctica saw a loss of 38 billion tonnes per year compared to 49 billion per year for the five years prior to that period.

Scientists have acknowledged that these sad results surpassed their expectations.

"It's a hard one for us to answer because the time series is still pretty short", he said.

"We can not count on East Antarctica to be the quiet player, and we start to observe change there in some sectors that have potential, and they're vulnerable", co-author Isabella Velicogna, a researcher from University of California, told told the Post.

Large parts of the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet did not retreat significantly during a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were similar to today's levels, according to a team of researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Overall, world sea levels have risen nearly 8 inches in the past century, driven mainly by a natural expansion of water already in the oceans as it warms along with a thaw of glaciers form the Andes to the Alps.

Overall, though, the continent is losing the mass of its ice, and if the world continues to warm, this loss can only accelerate. Coastal communities along the US could feel the impact of a continued increase as melting ice adds to sea level rise, say experts.

While some people blame climate change for the rapid melting ice caps, others blame underground heat sources such as volcanoes.

In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that average sea level rose by 7.5 inches between 1901 and 2010.

And although you may never get to see Antarctica for yourself, these scientists want you to know that what happens in this remote region has a significant impact in your own backyard.

Already floating, ice shelves breaking off into icebergs do not add to sea level. The bedrock under the landbound ice slopes downward, which is in turn allowing those warm waters to march ever further inland.

The changes will not be steady, in any case, said Knut Christianson, an Antarctic researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, by email.

"The ice sheet is now losing three times as much ice", Shepherd told NPR, adding that the annual sea level rise attributed to Antarctica has similarly tripled ― from 0.2 mm to 0.6 mm. Breakups of ice no longer act as a natural buffer for inland ice and glaciers make their way downstream and to sea much quicker.

"We're still talking about roughly a half a millimeter per year, " DeConto said.

The research team measured isotopes produced by the interaction between cosmic rays and the nucleus of an atom, called cosmogenic nuclides, in glacial sediment from Antarctic's largest ice shelf. "But remember for the northern hemisphere, for North America, the fact that the location in West Antarctica is where the action is amplifies that rate of sea level rise by up to an about additional 25 percent in a city like Boston or NY".

"This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities", says Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds, one of the study leads.

Rising sea levels can have a unsafe impact on coastal habitats and communities as flooding increases along with higher tides and stronger storm surges.

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