Scientists are expressing alarm over “utterly terrifying” new findings from NASA and the European Space Agency that Antarctica has lost about 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992, and in the past five years—as the atmospheric and ocean temperatures have continued to climb amid ongoing reliance on fossil fuels—ice losses have tripled.
“These events and the sea-level rise they’ve triggered are an indicator of climate change and should be of concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities.”
— Andrew Shepherd, University of Leeds
This should be a wake-up call, said University of Leeds professor Andrew Shepherd, a lead author of the report. “These events and the sea-level rise they’ve triggered are an indicator of climate change and should be of concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities.”
Published in the journal Nature, “This is the most robust study of the ice mass balance of Antarctica to date,” said NASA’s Erik Ivins, who co-led the research team. The report offers insight into the future of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, which the authors note “is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise.”
“The outlook for the future is looking different to what it was,” explained Shepherd. “There has been a sharp increase, with almost half the loss coming in the last five years alone.”
Up until 2012, “we could not detect any acceleration,” but after that, based on surveys by satellites, they saw a threefold increase in the rate of ice melt. “That’s a big jump, and it did catch us all by surprise,” Shepherd said. “A threefold increase now puts Antarctica in the frame as one of the largest contributors to sea-level rise. The last time we looked at the polar ice sheets, Greenland was the dominant contributor. That’s no longer the case.”