Just days after a group of researchers found that Greenland’s ice sheet is past a “point of no return,” a separate group of experts said that Earth has lost 28 trillion tons of ice between 1994 and 2017.
The research, published in the scientific journal Cryosphere Discussions, notes the three largest decreases in ice came from the Arctic sea (7.6 trillion tons), Antarctic ice shelves (6.4 trillion tons) and mountain glaciers (6.2 trillion tons). The Greenland ice sheet (3.8 trillion tons), Antarctic ice sheet (2.5 trillion tons) and Southern Ocean sea (0.9 trillion tons) also lost significant amounts of ice.
“To put that in context, every centimeter of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands,” study co-author Andy Shepherd said in an interview with The Guardian.
File photo: Iceberg floating off the western Antarctic peninsula, Antarctica, Southern Ocean. (Photo by Steven Kazlowski / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)
“In the past researchers have studied individual areas – such as the Antarctic or Greenland – where ice is melting,” Shepherd added. “But this is the first time anyone has looked at all the ice that is disappearing from the entire planet. What we have found has stunned us.”
The rate of ice loss is also increasing, the researchers found. It has risen 57 percent since the 1990s, “from 0.8 to 1.2 trillion tonnes per year – owing to increased losses from mountain glaciers, Antarctica, Greenland, and from Antarctic ice shelves.”
During the same time period, the researchers said the ice loss from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and mountain glaciers raised global sea levels by approximately 35 millimeters.
The scientists, who hail from the University of Leeds, the University of Edinburgh and University College London, combined satellite observations and numerical models to come up with their findings.
“Although a small fraction of mountain glacier losses are associated with retreat since the little ice age, there can be little doubt that the vast majority of Earth’s ice loss is a direct consequence of climate warming,” the experts wrote in the study.
The newly published findings come just days after another study from experts at Ohio State University noting the massive ice loss seen in the Greenland ice sheet. This research said the ice sheet is at a point where the snowfall replenishing the ice sheet is not able to keep up with the ice melt, losing approximately 500 gigatons (500 billion tons) of ice each year.
“We’ve been looking at these remote sensing observations to study how ice discharge and accumulation have varied,” said the study’s lead author, Ohio State University researcher Michalea King, in a statement. “And what we’ve found is that the ice that’s discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that’s accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet.”
The Greenland ice sheet has been in trouble for some time. In July 2019, it was reported the sheet lost 217 billion tons of ice, the worst melting since 2012.
In March, a study said Greenland lost 600 billion tons of ice by the end of summer 2019, enough to raise global sea levels 2.2 millimeters in just two months by itself. Global sea levels have been rising by approximately 3 millimeters per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In October 2019, researchers published a study that suggested rising sea levels could flood coastal areas that up to 480 million people call home.
A separate study published in August 2019 suggested that sea ice in the Arctic could completely disappear through September each summer if average global temperatures increase by as little as 2 degrees Celsius and climate conditions continue to worsen.
In November 2019, the Trump administration began the process of pulling out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that month touted America’s carbon pollution cuts and called the Paris deal an “unfair economic burden” to the U.S. economy.
Nearly 200 nations, including China, signed the climate deal in which each country provides its own goals to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases that lead to climate change.
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