Yearly loss of ice from Antarctica has increased by an alarming rate of 280 per cent between 2001 and 2017, according to a study which showed that accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch in the last four decades.
Scientists used aerial photographs, satellite measurements and computer models in 176 individual basins to make the determination.
"As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries", explained Eric Rignot, chair of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, and the leading author of the research.
The PNAS study estimated that Antarctica lost 169 billion tonnes of ice from 1992-2017, above the 109 billion tonnes in the same period estimated past year by a large worldwide team of researchers.
Another key finding of the study was how East Antarctica played a major role in total ice mass loss from 1979 to 2017. Last year's study, which took several teams' work into consideration, found little to no loss in East Antarctica recently and gains in the past.
When scientists talk about Antarctic melting, they're usually referring to West Antarctica, where giant coastal glaciers are shedding incredible amounts of water.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. A study from past year found little to no loss of ice from East Antarctica, notes the Associated Press.
The research is important because it teases out the pattern of growth and decay of the ice sheet over geologic time, including the presence of sea ice, a thin and fragile layer of frozen ocean surrounding Antarctica.
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The ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland may collapse even if we limit global warming.
The outward ice flow is normal and natural, and it is typically offset by some 2 trillion tons of snowfall atop Antarctica each year, a process that on its own would leave Earth's sea level relatively unchanged.
Denman, for instance, contains nearly five feet of potential sea-level rise alone and has lost almost 200 billion tons of ice, the study finds. Fast flowing inland ice streams of the West Antarctic are buttressed by floating ice shelves, which - if diminished or lost - raise the possibility of a runaway flow of West Antarctica's marine ice.
"Sea ice creates a barrier between the ocean and the ice", Levy said. The Antarctica we know today formed less than 3 million years ago when Carbon dioxide fell below 400ppm and year-round sea ice became a persistent feature.
Photo taken on December 28, 2017 shows a penguin standing on sea ice in Antarctica.
"It has been known for some time that the West Antarctic and Antarctic Peninsula have been losing mass, but discovering that significant mass loss is also occurring in the East Antarctic is really important because there's such a large volume of sea-level equivalent contained in those basins", said Christine Dow, a glacier expert at the University of Waterloo in Canada. To prevent climate catastrophe, we urgently need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by switching to renewable, non-polluting fuels.