Global ice sheets melting at 'worst-case' rates: UK scientists

27 Janvier, 2021, 16:16 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Earth Is Losing Ice Faster Today Than In The Mid-1990s Study

Annually, the melt rate is now about 57% faster than it was three decades ago, scientists report in a study published Monday in the journal The Cryosphere.

Dr. Slater says the study is the first of its kind to analyze ice disappearing using satellite observations.

The rate of loss has risen from 0.8 trillion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tonnes per year by 2017, with potentially disastrous consequences for people living in coastal areas.

"Although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most".

Global ice loss from all measured locations on the planet is occurring at the worst-case scenario pace.

Greenland's melting glaciers, which plunge into Arctic waters via steep-sided inlets, or fjords, are among the main contributors to global sea level rise in response to climate change.

"Over the past three decades there's been a huge worldwide effort to understand what's happening to individual components in Earth's ice system, revolutionized by satellites which allow us to routinely monitor the vast and inhospitable regions where ice can be found", lead study author Thomas Slater said in a news release.

He adds that over the past 3 decades, global efforts have been made to better understand the individual components of the planet's ice systems.

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The paper mentions that loss was suffered by Arctic sea ice that is 7.6 trillion tonnes, Antarctic ice shelves with 6.5 trillion tonnes, mountain glaciers with 6.1 trillion tonnes, the Greenland ice sheet at 3.8 trillion tonnes, the Antarctic ice sheet 2.5 trillion tonnes, and Southern Ocean sea ice have all decreased in mass. At the edges of Greenland, the vast glaciers extending from the ice sheet travel slowly down valleys like icy conveyor belts, which pour into the fjords and then melt or break off (or calve) as icebergs. In total, these losses contributed 1.37 inches to sea level rise. White ice helps in reflecting solar radiation into space, maintaining the planet's temperature. The loss has been mainly observed from the polar ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland that have melted drastically. And incremental but quickening sea level rise can play out in dramatic fashion when hurricanes roar ashore, pushing storm surge farther inland thanks to the climate change-driven boost.

For much of the 20th century, sea levels rose annually by some 1.4 millimeters a year.

This means that as ice shrinks, more solar energy is being stored on Earth causing the Arctic to warm faster than elsewhere on the planet.

The data collected suggests that half of all losses were from ice on land.

Scientific efforts to understand and predict sea level rise have largely focused on polar ice sheets, but mountain glaciers are disappearing at alarming rates.

It is forecasted that for every centimetre of sea-level increase, around a million people risk becoming displaced from low-lying homelands.

This data complements other surveys of the region - including OMG measurements via boat (which began in 2015) and observational data collected from the Landsat satellites from NASA and the U.S. Geologic Survey - and builds on a growing body of glacier research on ice-ocean interactions. "The retreat of glaciers around the world is therefore of crucial importance, at both local and global scales", Inès Otosaka, co-author of the study told the Guardian.

While the ice loss from the northern hemisphere was 58 per cent, the southern hemisphere lost 42 per cent ice.



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