Over 40% of Antarctic Ice Lost Since 1997

A concerning report reveals that more than 40% of the Antarctic ice sheet has shrunk since 1997, with almost half of it showing little sign of recovery.

Ice Loss Discrepancy

According to a team of scientists from the University of Leeds, 67 billion tons of ice were lost in the western part of the region, while 59 billion tons were gained in the east between 1997 and 2021, resulting in a net loss of 7.5 billion tons. 

Dr. Benjamin Davison, a Earth Observation expert and head researcher, explained that warm water on the west side of Antarctica is causing significant ice melt. The ice sheets act as a buttress at the end of glaciers, slowing down their flow into the ocean. As they shrink, glaciers release vast amounts of freshwater into the sea, which can disrupt the Southern Ocean’s currents.

Different Conditions in West and East Antarctica

The west is exposed to warm waters that can rapidly erode ice from below, while much of eastern Antarctica remains shielded from warm waters by a fringe of cold coastal waters.

This information comes from a recent publication in the journal Scientific Advances, in which researchers analyzed over 100,000 satellite images captured throughout the years. These satellite observations can penetrate thick cloud cover and operate even during the long polar nights.

Global Impact of Freshwater Release

It is estimated that 67 metric tons of freshwater released into the ocean over a 25-year period will affect the ocean currents transporting heat and nutrients worldwide, causing significant changes to the Earth’s climate cycles.

Dr. Davison remarked, “We expect that most ice will experience a rapid cycle of short-term melting but then slowly regrow. In contrast, what we’re seeing now is nearly half of it shrinking with no signs of recovery.”

Antarctica’s Unique Climate Crisis

In a study published last month, researchers discovered that Antarctica is likely to experience warming nearly twice as fast as other regions globally, and faster than previous climate crisis models had predicted. This alarming ice loss in Antarctica serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for climate action to mitigate the profound consequences of global warming and rising sea levels.


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