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Earth’s ice is melting faster today than in the mid-1990s, new research suggests, as the climate crisis nudges global temperatures ever higher.
In the past 30 years, the melting of the earth’s ice has increased 57 per cent – from an annual loss of close to 800 billion metric tonnes of ice in the mid-1990s to around 1.2 trillion tonnes annually, according to a new study, published today in the journal The Cryosphere.
Researchers estimate that in the past 30 years, close to 28 trillion metric tonnes of ice have melted away from the world’s sea ice, ice sheets, and glaciers. “It was a surprise to see such a large increase in just 30 years,” said co-author Thomas Slater, a glaciologist at Leeds University in the United Kingdom, reported Reuters.
Ice loss is relatively clear to those people depending on mountain glaciers for drinking water, or active sea ice to protect coastal homes from storms, but the melting of the world’s ice in far-flung places has grabbed the attention of researchers.
In Alaska, people are “keenly aware” of glacial ice loss, said geologist Gabriel Wolken with the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys. “You can see the changes with the human eye.”
The authors believe the study may be the first truly comprehensive report that takes into account both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, and mountain glaciers around the globe.
Between 1994 and 2017 the world’s glaciers especially in high-mountain regions shed about 6 trillion tonnes in mass.
Between 1994 and 2017, the world’s glaciers, especially in high-mountain regions, shed about 6.5 trillion tonnes in mass.
The British scientists used a variety of resources to come to their conclusions, including satellite measurements from 1994 to 2017, computer modeling and ground measurements, and on-site observations. The findings show that ice is steadily disappearing across much of the world, and a majority of the losses are driven by climate change.
The earth has over 215 thousand glaciers worldwide, according to a 2017 report from the Randolph Glacier Inventory. Glacier retreat has accounted for 21 per cent of global sea-level rise between 1993 and 2017, write the authors.
Sea ice typically covers polar regions, although its thickness and extent vary seasonally. However, the loss of sea ice due to long-term changes in earth’s climate was reported in a study this past September by scientists at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
According to the new study, “Sea ice plays a key role in the freshwater and energy budgets of the polar regions, impacts the marine ecosystem, and regulates the absorption of solar radiation in summer. Furthermore, sea ice loss could influence oceanic and atmospheric circulation and affect weather patterns in the mid-latitudes.”
The bottom line? The researchers note that “there can be little doubt that the vast majority of Earth’s ice loss is a direct consequence of climate warming.”
Allie K., Grade 7, Gordon Greenwood Elementary
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