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Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice between 1994 and 2017 while the rate of melting continues to accelerate rapidly, scientists have found.
Researches from Imperial College London and the Universities of Leeds and Edinburgh have been studying the full impact of the climate crisis on ice around the world.
The team used satellite data and other models for the first time to study ice sheets in Antarctica, Greenland and glaciers across the globe as well as sea ice and ice shelves.
The northern hemisphere was worse hit with 60 per cent of the melting occurring above the equator, the researchers said.
Huge volumes of ice melting in Antarctica, Greenland and from glaciers have already contributed to a 3.5cm rise in global sea levels between 1994 and 2017, they found.
The team’s research has been published as a preprint in open access journal The Cryosphere and is yet to be peer-reviewed.
One of the scientists, Dr Isobel Lawrence, a research fellow at the University of Leeds, told The Independent that her team were not surprised by the vast scale of the melting but they were concerned by its rapid acceleration.
She told the publication: “In the two decades since the 1990s, we’ve seen this estimate go up from 0.8 to 1.2 trillion tonnes of ice a year, so that’s a 57 per cent increase in one decade.
“If that continues, which it’s expected to because emissions are continuing to rise, then all of this melt is going to continue to accelerate. That has consequences for sea level rise.”
She said Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet melt could contribute 25 to 30cm to global sea levels by the end of the century under the “worst case” scenario outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Meanwhile thermal expansion of the oceans due to warming could also raise sea levels further, she added.
According to Nasa, the Greenland ice sheet holds enough water to raise the planet’s sea level by 7.4m alone and if all ice in Antarctica melts, this would raise sea levels by around 60 metres.
Ice stored in glaciers and Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets are composed of freshwater, she explained.
Dr Lawrence said that when they melt into the oceans, the huge volumes of freshwater then change the salinity of the seas and this can prevent the seasonal formation of ice and can alter how some ocean currents interact.
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World news – US – Earth ‘has lost over 28 trillion tonnes of ice since 1994’