Antarctica losing six times more ice mass annually now than 40 years ago

Climate change-induced melting will raise global sea levels for decades to come

University of California – Irvine Read ScienceDaily article here Read Washington Post article here: An alarming study shows massive East Antarctic ice sheet already is a significant contributor to sea-level rise

Eric Rignot, et al. Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017PNAS, January 14, 2019 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1812883116

Antarctica experienced a sixfold increase in yearly ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017, according to a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Netherlands’ Utrecht University additionally found that the accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch during that time.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” said lead author Eric Rignot, Donald Bren Professor and chair of Earth system science at UCI. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”

For this study, Rignot and his collaborators conducted what he called the longest-ever assessment of remaining Antarctic ice mass. Spanning four decades, the project was also geographically comprehensive; the research team examined 18 regions encompassing 176 basins, as well as surrounding islands….

The pace of melting rose dramatically over the four-decade period. From 1979 to 2001, it was an average of 48 gigatons annually per decade. The rate jumped 280 percent to 134 gigatons for 2001 to 2017. …

From WaPo:

The findings are the latest sign that the world could face catastrophic consequences if climate change continues unabated. In addition to more-frequent droughts, heat waves, severe storms and other extreme weather that could come with a continually warming Earth, scientists already have predicted that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not sharply decrease its carbon output. But in recent years, there has been growing concern that the Antarctic could push that even higher.

That kind of sea-level rise would result in the inundation of island communities around the globe, devastating wildlife habitats and threatening drinking-water supplies. Global sea levels have already risen seven to eight inches since 1900…..

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