Antarctica ice glaciers are melting much faster than had been previously thought, according to the results of recent studies on the region. Newly analyzed data of 21 years of ice glacier study at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in conjunction with the University of California, Irvine, found that the rate at which ice glaciers are melting in the Amundsen Sea Embayment has tripled in the past 10 years.
The study focused on West Antarctica ice glaciers, in particular, because it is the most unstable area and has long been recognized as the greatest threat to current sea levels. It was unknown, until the results from these studies were revealed, that the Amundsen Sea Embayment was losing water as fast as it has been through the melting ice glaciers.
Antarctica research, which has been published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, reported that the region of West Antarctica is losing 83 gigatons or 91.5 billion U.S. tons of ice per year. Further analysis of the data revealed that the rate of loss has been steadily increasing by an average of 6.7 billion tons every year since 1992.
Newsweek reports that the current U.N. projection of a 1-3 foot rise in sea levels does not account for the possibility of significant ice glacier loss in Antarctica, meaning sea levels would most likely rise much further than the U.N. estimates.
“We have an excellent observing network now. It’s critical that we maintain this network to continue monitoring the changes,” Isabella Velicogna, a co-author of the paper, said, “because the changes are proceeding very fast.”
The project researchers knew that Antarctica ice glaciers were melting because heat was being delivered to the underside of the ice sheets, but they were uncertain whether the cause was a shift in ocean currents or whether warmer water was being introduced into the region. Their analysis of past oceanographic records and recent testing revealed that warmer water was responsible for the threatening condition of the Antarctica ice glaciers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Amundsen Sea has warmed by 0.5 degrees Celsius over the past forty years and that, within that same period of time, the Bellingshausen Sea has warmed by 0.2 degrees Celsius.
Another study, published this past May, revealed that the melting of Antarctica ice glaciers has become unstoppable. Their estimates suggest that, if the entire West Antarctic ice sheet were to melt completely, the resulting sea level change would rise by 4.8 meters (16 feet).
“Although we’re very worried about West Antarctica at the moment, if the warm water gets closer to east Antarctica that might melt next,” said Dr. Karen Heywood of the University of East Anglia, U.K. “It won’t happen tomorrow but it could happen in a few decades or hundreds of years.”
Researchers are confident in the system of study they have developed and confirm the crucial need to continue monitoring the Antarctica ice glaciers. They stress the importance of using new data and new methods to further refine the study of Antarctica ice glaciers and how their melting will impact the global sea levels.
Another Inquisitr article reports that we have reached a climate change ‘tipping point.’