Rising carbon emissions putting Antarctic ice sheet under threat

Rising carbon emissions putting Antarctic ice sheet under threat

The ice sheet is buffered by these warmer waters by sea-ice but as emissions continue to rise, that sea-ice is slowly disappearing, making the ice sheet more vulnerable to melting, Mr Levy said.

Currently, the Antarctic ice sheet holds about 90 percent of the world's ice, and if it were all to melt, sea level would rise some 240 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Global sea levels have risen about 20 centimetres (8 inches) in the past century and many other studies have shown a faster thaw from Greenland to Antarctica, threatening coasts from Bangladesh to Florida and cities from London to Shanghai.

"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. 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 almost three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not sharply decrease its carbon output.

An worldwide team of scientists from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Utrecht University in the Netherlands conducted the "longest-ever assessment of remaining Antarctic ice mass".

For their research, the team examined images taken NASA research aircraft as well as satellite data collected by several agencies.

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Between 1979 and 1990, Antarctica lost 40 billion metric tons of ice per year, a figure that rose six times to 252 billion metric tons per year between 2009 and 2017. Accordign to a study the yearly loss of ice from Antartica has increased by an alarming rate of 280 per cent between 2001 and 2017.

Antarctica contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 57 metres if it ever all melted, a process that would require far higher temperatures than now and thousands of years.

'This region is probably more sensitive to climate 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'.

CO2 emissions can not get any higher to avoid losing more sea-ice, he said. Scientists came to that conclusion after systematically computing gains and losses across 65 sectors of Antarctica where large glaciers - or a series of glaciers flowing into an ice shelf - reach the sea.

Until now, most research has shown that the majority of melting is happening in the West.

When scientists talk about Antarctic melting, they're usually referring to West Antarctica, where giant coastal glaciers are shedding incredible amounts of water. Comparing the two records, the New Zealand and Wisconsin researchers recapitulate the history of the Antarctic Ice Sheet throughout most of the past 34 million years, starting when the ice sheet first formed. But this study finds a vast quarter of eastern Antarctica is now becoming a bigger player and "is a great concern as well".

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