Science

Planet Earth Is Losing Ice At A Record Pace, Latest Figures Show

Planet Earth Is Losing Ice At A Record Pace, Latest Figures Show”

The rate of ice loss increased from 0.8 trillion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tonnes by 2017. Floating ice in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans reflects sunlight, inhibiting the absorption of sunlight which would heat the ocean water.

The rate at which ice is disappearing across the world matches "worst-case climate warming scenarios", United Kingdom scientists have warned in new research.

For the year 2017, that information helped the team discover that the planet lost 1.3 trillion tons of ice-equivalent to a hundred-meter-thick sheet of ice able to cover the entirety of the United Kingdom. Their retreat has accounted for 21percent of global sea-level rise between 1993 and 2017, write the authors.

Input from United Nations' IPCC has been critical to forming worldwide climate change strategies, including the 2015 Paris Agreement under which the majority of greenhouse gas emitting nations agreed to mitigate the impact of global warming.

This study, says Dr. Slater, is the first to examine all of the ice at the same time, using satellite data. "That's like more than 10,000 "Back to the Future" lightning strikes per second of energy melting ice around-the-clock since 1994", William Colgan, an ice-sheet expert at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told The Washington Post.

While the 215,000 glaciers covered by the study, as well as Arctic sea ice, were primarily impacted by rising air temperatures, rising ocean temperatures caused melting in the Antarctic ice sheet. That includes up to 6.1 trillion tons from mountain glaciers, 2.5 trillion tons from Antarctic ice sheet, and 3.8 trillion tons from Greenland. He noted that the largest glaciers are more sensitive to warming waters and they were the main cause of Greenland's ice loss.

Similarly, sea ice doesn't contribute to sea-level rise as it melts away.

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Global ice loss from all measured locations on the planet is occurring at the worst-case scenario pace.

Scientific efforts to understand and predict sea level rise have largely focused on polar ice sheets, but mountain glaciers are disappearing at alarming rates.

"Isobel Lawrence, a fellow researcher, explains", sea ice loss doesn't contribute directly to sea-level rise but has an indirect influence.

"Over the past three decades, there's been a huge worldwide effort to understand what's happening to individual components in Earth's ice system, revolutionized by satellites which allow us to routinely monitor the vast and inhospitable regions where ice can be found".

This data complements other surveys of the region - including OMG measurements via boat (which began in 2015) and observational data collected from the Landsat satellites from NASA and the U.S. Geologic Survey - and builds on a growing body of glacier research on ice-ocean interactions. This major reduction has grave consequences for the entire planet and the threat of sea-level rise. But the second reveals that the panel's sea level projections, which were already criticized as too conservative, may have underestimated the role of glacial undercutting in accelerating ice melt even more.

Despite storing only 1 % of the Earth's total ice volume, glaciers have contributed to nearly a quarter of the global ice losses over the study period, with all glacier regions around the world losing ice.

Moreover, the team indicated that only 58 % of the ice loss was from the northern hemisphere.

Reference: 25 January 2021, The Cryosphere.



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