The increasing concern of global warming around the world is no news to us. Hurricanes, floods, extreme weather oscillations, icebergs melting and coral bleaching are just signs that our planet is getting warmer and that we have to get serious about preserving it. However, we’ve never had any clue of at what pace our planet is warming. A new study warns that Antarctica is melting at an extremely fast pace, with ice loss increasing by six times between 1979 and 2017.
The new study which reveals such shocking results was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and was conducted by an international team of scientists from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
To get the results, a team looked at satellite and aerial images of 18 Antarctic regions, which hosts 176 basins and several islands. The team was curious to see how much those islands had changed over the past decades.
The results were shocking, revealing that Antarctica lost about 44 billion tons of ice each year between 1978 to 1990. While these results are already dreadful, they were worse between 2009 and 2017 when the number increased to 278 billion tons.
The fact that Antarctica is melting at an extremely fast pace contributes to higher sea levels. In fact, the ice melting at Antarctica has made the sea level rise by 0.5 inches globally, during the time frame of the study.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” lead author Eric Rignot, a professor at UCI and senior project scientist at the JPL, said in a statement. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”
Moreover, Antarctica is not the only leading cause of the rise in sea level. Melting ice shelves in the Arctic affect it also, as do many other factors. A recent study learned that the sea level could be rising due to global warming as waves receive more energy which makes them “stronger.” The consequences of stronger and larger waves are catastrophic as many coastal communities that fight flooding could be compromised.
“The Wilkes Land sector of East Antarctica has, overall, always been an important participant in the mass loss, even as far back as the 1980s, as our research has shown,” said Rignot. “This region is probably more sensitive to climate [change] than has traditionally been assumed, and that’s important to know, because it holds even more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula together.”
Now that we know Antarctica is melting at an extremely fast pace, we have to do something to reverse the process, especially because of the well-known Ozone layer hole above the frozen continent. The best thing humanity can do to stop the process of human-induced global warming is to reduce the use of greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon-dioxide and methane and switch to renewable power sources.
“As climate warming and ozone depletion send more ocean heat toward [the sectors of Antarctica losing the most ice], they will continue to contribute to sea level rise from Antarctica in decades to come,” Rignot said.