Antarctica is shedding ice at an accelerating rate

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The Guardian - Ice in the Antarctic is melting at a record-breaking rate and the subsequent sea rises could have catastrophic consequences for cities around the world, according to two new studies.

"We took all the estimates across all the different techniques, and we got this consensus", said Isabella Velicogna, an Antarctic expert at the University of California at Irvine and one of the study's authors in The Washington Post. "Sea level rise for the future, it's not happening at the same rate in every part of the world... this gravity thing has a big impact". This might allow the contnent in 2070 to look "much like it did in the early decades of the century", the authors suggest, with ice shelves intact, slower loss from the ice sheet and reduced threat of sea level rise.

Ice edge of Pine Island Glacier on January 26, 2017. West Antarctica is where most of the thawing has taken place, but that does not mean that East Antarctica is doing any better.

Between 60 and 90 per cent of the world's fresh water is frozen in the ice sheets of Antarctica, a continent roughly the size of the U.S. and Mexico combined.

Hamish Pritchard summer clouds swirl around the Staccato Peaks of Alexander Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. In a study released Wednesday
Antarctica is shedding ice at an accelerating rate

We have long suspected that changes in Earth's climate will affect the polar ice sheets.

Analysis of the phenomenon - detailed this week in the journal Nature - suggests such a reversal of fortune is unlikely to happen again. And from 2012 to 2017, the melt rate increased to more than 241 billion tons a year. "Thanks to our satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence".

And the ice losses quickened to 219 billion tonnes a year since 2012, from 76 billion previously. "If more warm ocean waters reach Antarctica, this will further accelerate sea level rise".

More than 80 researchers from around the world, however, concluded that the changes in East Antarctica were not almost enough to make up for the rapid loss seen in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula.

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Increased ocean acidity is a global problem due to the increased amount of carbon dioxide from pollution that also hurts animals that live in waters. Then the ice sheet began to regrow toward today's configuration, according to the study.

Oceans are now rising by 3.4 millimetres (0.13 inches) per year.

Likewise, the fact that some ice on the southern continent was stable in a warming climate does not signal that Antarctica can somehow backstop the impact of climate change, they cautioned.

If this scenario continues, the sea level would rise by 15 cm by 2100 leaving a constant threat to peninsular and island nations and also coastal areas of USA as it is enough to flood Brooklyn.

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"We can not count on East Antarctica to be the quiet player, and we start to observe change there in some sectors that have potential and they're vulnerable", said Velicogna. "But remember for the northern hemisphere, for North America, the fact that the location in West Antarctica is where the action is amplifies that rate of sea level rise by up to an about additional 25 percent in a city like Boston or NY". In 2014 the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) published its fifth assessment report, which includes modelled projections of Antarctica's contribution to sea level rise over the century.

Or alternatively, he continued, Antarctica could drive faster changes, ones that "begin to exceed what we're going to be able to cope with".

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