Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice at a rate that is on track to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) worst-case scenario prediction for sea-level rise.
A team of 89 polar scientists from 50 international organisations combined 26 separate surveys to compute changes in the mass of the ice sheets between 1992 to 2018.
The research which was published this week in the journal Nature has shown that in the 1990s Antarctica and Greenland lost on average 81 billion tonnes of ice a year and in the 2010’s they lost an average of 475 billion tonnes per year.
The combined rate of ice loss has risen by a factor of six in just three decades, this means that polar ice sheet loss is now responsible for a third of all sea-level rise.
At the current rate of rising, this will lead to an extra 17 centimetres of sea-level rise by 2100.
Professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds said: ‘Every centimetre of sea-level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting people’s lives around the planet.
‘If Antarctica and Greenland continue to track the worst-case climate warming scenario, they will cause an extra 17 centimetres of sea-level rise by the end of the century.
‘This would mean 400 million people are at risk of annual coastal flooding by 2100.’
‘These are not unlikely events with small impacts; they are already underway and will be devastating for coastal communities.’
Dr Erik Ivins at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory in California said: ‘Satellite observations of polar ice are essential for monitoring and predicting how climate change could affect ice losses and sea-level rise.
‘While computer simulation allows us to make projections from climate change scenarios, the satellite measurements provide prima facie, rather irrefutable, evidence.’
In related news, a report published by the IPCC in Septemeber 2019 revealed that the world’s oceans are facing ‘unprecedented’ challenges due to climate change.
The scientists have said that sea levels are rising at a much faster pace because glaciers in mountain regions are melting into a warmer ocean, which is also more acidic and less productive than ever before.
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