In West Antarctica, the melting ice tripled from 53 billion tonnes in 1992 to 159 billion tonnes in 2017 [Reuters]
The Antarctic ice sheets are melting many times faster than previously thought, significantly increasing the rise of global sea levels in recent years, according to a new research by a group of US and UK scientists.
The research, which looked at satellite data from 1992 until 2017, said the increase has been especially steep since 2012. Until then, melting Antarctic ice contributed 0.2mm to the rise of the global sea levels annually.
In 2017, that number had risen to 0.6mm per year.
The researchers looked at the three major Antarctic areas: East Antarctica, West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula.
The loss of ice was especially significant in West Antarctica, where the melting ice tripled over the last 25 years, from 53 billion tonnes in 1992 to 159 billion tonnes per year in 2017.
During the same period, the loss of ice for the Antarctic Peninsula went up from seven billion tonnes annually to 33 billion tonnes annually.
According to the researchers, the only area which increased in size was East Antarctica, but the five billion tonnes added annually to that ice sheet was not enough to offset the significant loss in other areas of the continent.
Between 1992 and 2017, a total of 2.7 trillion tonnes of Antarctic ice melted, amounting to a rise of global sea levels by about 7.5mm just from Antarctic ice alone.
In total, sea levels have risen about 8cm since 1992.
The research was done by taking data from satellites that have been flying over the Antarctic region for 25 years.
The satellites measure the height of the ice sheets and the speed at which they move towards the sea, which allows scientists to deduce the total amount of ice from that data.
In April, a team of UK researchers released a report saying that underwater glaciers in Antarctica are melting at an “alarming rate”.
According to that study, 1,463sq km of ice melted between 2010 and 2016, an area slightly smaller than the Greater London area.
The study found more than 10 percent of Antarctica’s coastal glacier are currently retreating more than 25m per year.
Man-made global warming has already lifted average global air temperatures by about one degree Celsius since pre-industrial levels.
Antarctica is one of the world’s fastest-warming regions.
Rising sea levels pose a major threat to ecosystems, coastal areas and climate as a whole.
As the sea levels rise, potentially flooding coastal areas.
Changing water temperatures could not only cause disasters such as hurricanes and typhoons, but will also have an effect on sea life in the decades to come.