Research has found that melting of ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctic is accelerating the melting of ice across the planet at a record rate.
According to a paper published on Monday in the journal The Cryosphere, the loss rate is now consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s worst scenario on climate change.
Thomas Slater, lead author and research fellow at the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling at the University of Leeds, warned that the results would be felt worldwide. “Rising sea levels at this level will have a very serious impact on coastal communities in this century,” he said.
Around 28 tonnes of snow was lost between 1994 and 2017, which the authors of the paper calculated would be enough to put a 100-meter thick ice sheet across Britain. About two thirds of the ice loss was caused by the warming of the atmosphere, about one third was caused by the warming of the ocean.
Over the study period, the rate of snow loss increased by 65% from 0.8tn tonnes per year in 1990 to 1.3 trillion tonnes a year as of 2017. Half of all lost ice was from land, which contributes directly to global seabed. The loss of ice over the study period from 1994 to 2017 is estimated to have increased the sea level by 35 millimeters.
The largest amount of ice in the polar regions was lost to floating ice, increasing the risk of a reaction mechanism known as albedo loss. White ice reflects solar radiation back into space – the albido effect – but when floating sea ice melts it absorbs deeper water that absorbs more heat, accelerating warming in a reaction loop.
The glaciers showed the next largest loss of ice volume, which lost more than 6 tons between 1994 and 2017, nearly a quarter of the global ice loss in the period. The shrinking of glaciers threatens to cause both flooding and water scarcity in some areas, as large amounts of melting may submerge drift areas, then shrinking glaciers produce less of the steady water flow required for agriculture.
Ines Otoska, co-author and PhD researcher for polar observation and modeling at the University of Leeds Center, said: “As a freshwater resource for locals, along with contributing to sea level rise globally Mountain glaciers are also important. Therefore, the return of glaciers around the world is important locally and globally. “
This study, called Earth’s Ice Imbalance, used satellite observations over a 23-year period to assess snow around the world. Previous studies have investigated parts of the world rather than extensively evaluating the data. The research team included the University of Edinburgh, University College London and Earthwave, a data science organization, and was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.