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Climate change melting Greenland, Antarctica ice sheets 6 times faster than in the 1990s

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Published: March 17, 2020 3:32:35 pm

greenland, antarctica, ice melting, climate change, global warming, nasa, esa An aerial view of the icebergs near Kulusuk Island, off the southeastern coastline of Greenland, a region that is exhibiting an accelerated rate of ice loss.Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Climate change is causing the earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctic, to lose ice six times faster than they were in the 1990s. The comprehensive assessment of data obtained from 11 satellite missions monitoring the regions suggests that if the current melting trend continues, it will result in the rising of sea levels by 6.7-inches by 2100.

As per NASA, ocean water is responsible for majority of Antarctica’s ice loss and half of Greenland’s ice loss. The rest of the meltdown is caused by rising air temperatures.

The findings confirming the “worst-case” scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were published in the journal Nature by an international team of 89 polar scientists from 50 organizations on March 12. The assessment was also supported by agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Explained: Lessons from a melting Antarctic glacier

This observation of changing ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica is the most comprehensive assessment to date. To calculate changes in the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets between 1992 and 2018, the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise team combined 26 surveys, which used measurements from satellites including NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite and the joint NASA-German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment.

greenland, antarctica, ice melting, climate change, global warming, nasa, esa Pools of meltwater in southwestern Greenland’s ice sheet as observed by a NASA satellite in 2016.Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The team led by Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds in England and Erik Ivins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California calculated that Greenland and Antarctica lost 81 billion tons per year in the 1990s, compared with 475 billion tons of ice per year in the 2010s – a sixfold increase.

In total, the two ice sheets together have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice since the 1990s, which boosted global sea levels by 0.7 inches. “Together, the melting polar ice sheets are responsible for a third of all sea-level rise. Of this total sea-level rise, 60 per cent resulted from Greenland’s ice loss and 40 per cent resulted from Antarctica’s,” NASA said in a press release.

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“Satellite observations of polar ice are essential for monitoring and predicting how climate change could affect ice losses and sea-level rise,” said Ivins. “While computer simulations allow us to make projections from climate change scenarios, the satellite measurements provide prima facie, rather irrefutable, evidence.”

According to the press release, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by 2100. “Every centimetre of sea-level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting people’s lives around the planet,” Shepherd said.

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Updated: March 17, 2020 — 10:06 am

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