Earth Is Losing 1.2 Trillion Tons of Ice a Year Because of Climate Change

Joe Price
·2 min read

Image via Getty/NurPhoto

New research suggests that scientists have been underestimating the impact of climate change on Earth's ice, which is melting at a record rate.

As the new research from the journal The Cryosphere reports, the current melting rate is now matching up with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's worst-case scenarios. Lead author of the research, Thomas Slater, added that "Sea level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century." So essentially, it's indicated that the sea levels could rise more than initially expected.

Approximately 28tn tonnes of ice was lost from 1994 to 2017, and two thirds of that was due to the warming of the atmosphere, while the other third was attributed to rising sea temperatures. It is estimated that around 0.8tn tonnes of ice melted a year in the '90s, but 1.2tn tonnes was melting a year by 2017. That same ice loss from this period is estimated to have raised global sea levels by around 35 millimetres.

It is believed that the rate of ice melt will continue to accelerate in the near future, with one NASA-backed study on Greenland's ice sheet indicating 74 major glaciers in the region are currently being undercut and weakened. As per a new paper in the journal Science Advances, scientists have seemingly failed to account for the role of ocean undercutting when estimating sea-level rise from the ice sheets.

"It’s like cutting the feet off the glacier rather than melting the whole body," said study co-author and NASA glacier researcher Eric Rignot. "You melt the feet and the body falls down, as opposed to melting the whole body. ... I think this is an example that the current projections are conservative. As we peer below we realize these feedbacks are kicking in faster than we thought."

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