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The Antarctic Has Lost Three Trillion Tons of Ice Since 1992

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I tend to push my opinions, especially when they are backed up by facts.  If you can disprove something that I believe in, by presenting me with new facts, I am happy to change my tune and admit that I’m wrong.  Which is why I find it so strange that people don’t believe in climate change.  I’m not suggesting that you go out and you start protesting, but I feel like there’s something to be said about the fact that the Earth is getting warmer.  Like I said, this isn’t just my beliefe.  It’s estimated that three trillion tons of ice have melted in Antarctica since 1992.  I realize that’s a long period of time, but that’s also an enormous amount of ice.  1.2 billion Olympic swimming pools to be exact.

The ice is now melting faster.  Which means, we’re doing quite a bit of damage to our world.  Dozens of the world’s leading Antarctic researchers contributed to this new research, which updates an analysis that ran until 2011.  The new analysis, which uses satellite, radar, and other tools extends this data to 2017.  According to Andrew Shepherd, a cryosphere scientist with the University of Leeds:

“The rate of ice loss is now three times faster than it was prior to 2012, when we last looked, The longer term 25-year signal is now one of clearly increasing losses in most calendar years.”

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Some of this loss is due to natural processes, the calving of coastal glaciers is part of the natural life cycle of Antarctica’s ice sheets.  This research indicates that what is happening is outside of this calving, and is an important indicator of climate change.  The great majority of the ice loss is occurring in West Antarctica where warm water is intruding under glaciers and causing them to become more unstable with each passing year.  A quirk of geology is making matters worse. The bedrock under the landbound ice slopes downward, which is, in turn, allowing those warm waters to march ever further inland. It also means the ice cliffs at the snout of those glaciers are getting taller and more prone to collapse. It’s an untenable situation and one that could lead to runaway melt that would raise sea levels more than 10 feet.

In addition, the Antarctic Peninsula is also shedding a lot of ice in part, due to the collapsing Larsen ice shelves.  Larsen A and B are no longer, but their remaining Larsen C unleashed a massive iceberg, which was the size of Delaware last year and scientists are still gauging the health of what is left attached to the land.  The research also confirms that the land is springing upward due to the ice loss. So yes, we’re not only wiping out ice, we’re changing the shape of the planet. The increases are on the order of a few millimeters per year, but scientists need to account for them to ensure their other measures of ice loss are accurate.

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This isn’t exactly news.  The Antarctic is also not alone in losing these amounts of ice.  Previous research has shown that Greenland has lost a trillion tones of ice between 2011 and 2014.  While I said it’s not news, it’s not good either.  I’m not saying that I know what the answers are for this, but I think, in general, we need to do a better job of looking after our planet.

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