The melting of ice in Antarctica is growing with great speed

800px-Glacier_on_Antarctic_coast

Antarctica is now melting three times faster than ever before

Up to now, scientists have struggled in determining whether Antarctica has accumulated more mass through snowfall than it loses in meltwater run-off and ice flows into the ocean.

They also highlight the existential threat facing low-lying coastal cities and communities home to hundreds of millions of people.

The loss of ice was especially significant in West Antarctica, where the melting ice tripled over the last 25 years, from 53 billion tonnes in 1992 to 159 billion tonnes per year in 2017.

"The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise", the IMBIE team wrote in their Nature paper. If it were all to melt, as it has in the past, global sea levels would rise by 58 metres. The continent is melting so fast, that it will contribute to six inches ( 15 centimetres) to sea level rise by 2100.

The study - known as the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-Comparison Exercise - is the compilation of recent measurements of Antarctic ice loss, using satellite imagery to assess the height and weight of the ice, as well as the speed that it is moving towards the water. The study underlines the fact that it is mostly the warmer water that is making the ice sheets melt. Therefore, bistratose areas on the continent were two ice shelf - pine island glacier and Thwaites.

Another component of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, marine-based ice, sits below sea level and is thus directly affected by the ocean.

Scientists have been closely monitoring the changing Antarctica through the satellite imaging for several decades. Forty percent of that loss has occurred in just the last 5 years, again underscoring the increase in losses recently.

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"Sea ice acts as a protective buffer to ice shelves, by dampening destructive ocean swells before they reach the ice shelf edge".

In time, this flexing weakens the cracks and fractures already existing in Antarctica's ice shelves, causing them to break up and splinter, calving off in detached pieces.

We have long suspected that changes in Earth's climate will affect the polar ice sheets.

After conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds observations, it was found that over the past five years, the average rate of ice melting in Antarctica was three times higher than in the previous 20 years. "There are no other plausible signals to be driving this other than climate change". Meanwhile, the Financial Times finds its own angle to the story: "The natural gas industry grew past year at the fastest rate since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, led by a surge in Chinese demand, which also helped to propel growth in energy consumption globally, according to energy major BP..."

If the right decisions are not made to preserve Antarctica in the next ten years, the consequences will be felt around the world.

Jahda Swanborough, Lead, Environmental Initiatives at the World Economic Forum, said: "News that the world's largest ice sheet is melting more rapidly is a loud wake-up call". The upper end of this range would imply that most of the ice on the planet melted, enough to raise sea levels by 63 meters.

"The increasing mass loss that they're finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that's changing most rapidly and it's the area that we're most anxious about, because it's below sea level", said Christine Dow, a glaciologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who was not involved in the research.

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