Scientists alarmed as West Antarctic ice melts at three times normal rate
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New research shows West Antarctica is losing ice at triple the normal rate and is contributing to rapid sea level rise. The cause appears to be warm water under the glacial ice, melting it from below.
Scientists warn that ice melt is accelerating.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - More than 80 scientists from 42 organizations have come to a consensus: West Antarctica is melting three times faster than at any time on record. The ice sheet is losing 219 tons billion tons of ice each year, which is triple the quantity lost in years prior to 2012. After 2012, ice loss accelerated due to warm water which is getting under glaciers and melting them from below.
Scientists have calculated that this region alone is responsible for 7.6 millimeters of sea level rise since 1992. At present, scientists warn we should expect as much as 3.3 millimeters of sea level rise per year from all sources. However, actual sea level rise appears to be closer to 1.8 millimeters. There are 25.4 millimeters in an inch. At 3.3 millimeters per year, we can expect an inch of sea level rise every 25 years.
An inch may not seem like much, but it is significant and has an outsized impact on the planet. For example, an inch of sea level rise means salt water will penetrate farther inland, flooding farmland and contaminating soil and water aquifers. Many people depend on freshwater aquifers for drinking water.
An inch of sea level rise will contribute to bigger storm surges, which means that much more property loss. Also, erosion will accelerate. That's bad news for anyone who loves the beach, and worse for anyone who lives on the beach.
Already, five Pacific islands have been lost to sea level rise. Another six are in immediate danger. Several Pacific communities are grappling with the need to relocate before the rising sea consumes their home.
Worse yet, the rate of sea level rise appears to be increasing. If the rate accelerates we can expect these effects much sooner. What should take a generation could happen in a decade.
Present estimates suggest that sea level rise will be enough to wash out several cities on the U.S. East Coast by 2100.
Scientists worry about Antarctica because it is the planet's largest reservoir of land ice. Ice that is on the water contributes minimally to sea level rise, but ice on land adds all of its water to sea level rise.
Scientists are also worried about ice shelves. Event hough ice on the water contributes only minimally to sea level rise, ice shelves also hold back glaciers. If the ice shelves weaken, the glaciers they hold back could begin sliding into the sea. Such a slide would be slow but would accelerate sea level rise.
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The research team was made up of more than 80 scientists from 42 countries. All reached the same conclusion, that West Antarctic ice is melting faster than at any rate in recent, recorded history. This melting is contributing to sea level rise.
The researchers also noted that ice in East Antarctica appeared stable, but the data on that region is lacking. They also warned that ice loss in East Antarctica could be more severe than what is happening now. For example, the Totten glacier in East Antarctica contains as much ice as the entire Western Antarctic ice sheet.
Scientists blame human-induced climate change for these developments.
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