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Antarctic melt rate is accelerating

Antarctic ice is melting three times faster than it was a decade ago - contributing even more to rising sea levels. Findings from major climate assessment known as the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) published this week showed that ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3.0 mm) in the last five years alone.

The study was led by Professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds and Dr Erik Ivins at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

The findings show that prior to 2012, Antarctica lost ice at a rate of 76 billion tonnes per year which was a 0.2 mm per year contribution to sea level rise. However, since then there has been a sharp, threefold increase. Between 2012 and 2017 the continent lost 219 billion tonnes of ice per year, giving a 0.6 mm per year sea level contribution.

Professor Shepherd said: "We have long suspected that changes in Earth's climate will affect the polar ice sheets. Thanks to the satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence. According to our analysis, there has been a step increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years. This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities."

Read the full study here.

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