If the climate crisis seems like a distant threat to humankind then a recent research might put things into perspective. The research says that between 1994 and 2017, we lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice that is equivalent to a sheet of ice 100 metres thick covering the whole of the UK.
The paper titled Earth's Ice Imbalance was published in published in European Geosciences Union’s journal The Cryosphere. The research was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Leeds, University of Edinburgh, University College London, and data science specialists Earthwave. The team of scientists included Research fellow Thomas Slater from the University of Leeds’ Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling who is also the lead author, Isobel R. Lawrence, Inès N. Otosaka, Noel Gourmelen, Livia Jakob, Andrew Shepherd, Paul Tepes, Peter Nienow, and Lin Gilbert. According to the University of Leeds, the research is the first of its kind to carry out a survey of global ice loss using satellite data.
Through their research, the scientists found that the rate of ice loss from the Earth has increased drastically within the past three decades, from 0.8 trillion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tonnes per year by 2017. The paper mentions that loss was suffered by Arctic sea ice that is 7.6 trillion tonnes, Antarctic ice shelves with 6.5 trillion tonnes, mountain glaciers with 6.1 trillion tonnes, the Greenland ice sheet at 3.8 trillion tonnes, the Antarctic ice sheet 2.5 trillion tonnes, and Southern Ocean sea ice have all decreased in mass. Around 58% of the ice loss was from the Northern Hemisphere, and the remainder 42 % was from the Southern Hemisphere. Ice sheets are melting at a 65% faster rate over the 23-year survey, found the study. The loss has been mainly observed from the polar ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland that have melted drastically.
In a statement to the University of Leeds, Dr Thomas Slater said that even though every region his team studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most. He went on to say that the ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The scientist warned that the sea-level rise on this scale will have profoundly serious repercussions on coastal communities this century.
One of the main reasons why ice sheets are vanishing in Arctic sea ice and mountain glaciers across the globe is said to be rising atmospheric temperatures. While rising ocean temperatures have increased the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, mentions the study. Meanwhile, for the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctic ice shelves, ice losses have been caused by both rising ocean and atmospheric temperatures.