The speed at which the world’s ice sheets are melting continues to gather pace and should act as an alarm to the world around its efforts to halt global warming.
Researchers from the University of Leeds, the University of Edinburgh, University College London, and Earthwave have published the findings of a comprehensive study in European Geosciences Union’s journal The Cryosphere.
According to the study, ice melt over the past three decades has steadily increased — in the 1990s, there was an average global ice melt of 0.8 trillion tonnes per year; by 2017, there was an average of 1.3 trillion tonnes per year. In total, the rate of ice loss has increased by 65 percent between 1994 and 2017.
Overall, between 1994 and 2017, planet Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice. To put that in perspective, that would be equivalent to a 100-meter-thick sheet of ice the size of the U.K.
The research has also been highlighted by Green Matters and the World Economic Forum. It warned the level and speed of melting ice has been the most concerning in two polar climates: Antarctica and Greenland. 58 percent of the ice loss happened in the northern hemisphere, while the other 42 percent happened in the southern hemisphere.
“Although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most,” lead author Dr. Thomas Slater said in a statement for the University of Leeds. “The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Sea-level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century.”
The study warned the rapid ice melt poses a series of significant issues for Antarctica, Greenland, and other cold climates. For one thing, it has a strong correlation with sea level rise.
“Sea ice loss doesn’t contribute directly to sea level rise but it does have an indirect influence. One of the key roles of Arctic sea ice is to reflect solar radiation back into space which helps keep the Arctic cool,” co-author Dr. Isobel Lawrence explained in a statement.
“As the sea ice shrinks, more solar energy is being absorbed by the oceans and atmosphere, causing the Arctic to warm faster than anywhere else on the planet,” she continued. “Not only is this speeding up sea ice melt, it’s also exacerbating the melting of glaciers and ice sheets which causes sea levels to rise.”