The sea ice in Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate as about 3 trillion tonnes of ice has disappeared since 1992, and nearly 40% of that loss has happened in the last five years, according to research published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. An international team of polar scientists found that the Antarctic ice sheet has lost more than 2,500 billion tonnes of ice in the last 25 years.
Ice sheets are considered to be a key indicator of climate change. The study looked at the mass balance of the Antarctica Ice Sheet between 1992 and 2017.
According to the report the continent’s ice sheet melted enough in the last quarter century to cover Texas to a depth of nearly 13 feet. Between 1992 and 2011, the southern-most continent lost nearly 84 million tonnes of ice every year. The melting rate increased to more than 241 billion tonnes a year between 2012 and 2017, the report said.
“I think we should be worried,” Isabella Velicogna, one of the 88 co-authors of the report, said, according to AP. “That doesn’t mean we should be desperate. Things are happening. They are happening faster than we expected.”
The scientists said the losses are predominantly taking place in the West of the continent. More than 70% of the recent melt is in West Antarctica.
“What we can say is that it’s too warm for Antarctica today,” Professor Andrew Shepherd, who leads the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise, told BBC. “It’s about half a degree Celsius warmer than the continent can withstand and it’s melting about five metres of ice from its base each year, and that’s what’s triggering the sea-level contribution that we’re seeing.”
The increase in melting should act as a wake-up call for the governments to protect coastal cities and communities, researchers said.