Massive loss on ice! The largest ice sheet in the Antarctic is crumbling faster shown in satellite imagery

Massive loss on ice! The largest ice sheet in the Antarctic is crumbling faster shown in satellite imagery

Updated on August 12, 2022 10:33 AM by Emily Hazel

Satellite analysis

On Wednesday, the Antarctic's coastal glaciers are shedding icebergs more rapidly than nature replenishes the crumbling, doubling previous estimates of losses from the world's largest ice sheet over the past 25 years. Climate change causes the weakening of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves, raising global sea levels.

A study finds that the loss of Antarctic ice from coastal glacier chunks calving off into the ocean is nearly as great as the net amount of ice. The loss was due to thinning caused by melting ice shelves from below by warming seas. Since 1997, thinning and carving reduced the mass of Antarctica's ice shelves by 12 trillion tons, double the previous estimation.

Related: Satellite imagery shows Antarctic ice shelf crumbling faster than thought 

Antarctica is crumbling at its edges

In the past quarter-century, the net loss of the continent’s ice sheet from calving alone is about 37,000 sq kilometers, an area almost the size of Switzerland. Ice shelves are weakening where the continent’s massive glaciers tend to speed up and increase the rate of global level rise. There had enormous consequences where Antarctica holds 88% of the seal level potential of the world’s ice.

Ice Shelves are floating sheets of freshwater attached to the land that take thousands of years to form and hold back glaciers that slide off into the ocean, causing seas to rise. Warming oceans weakened the shelves from underneath, a phenomenon documented by satellite measuring the height of the ice and losses averaging 149 million tons a year from 2002 to 2020.

Related: Satellite imaging shows Antarctic ice shelf melting faster than anticipated

Image from space

Since 1997, Greene's team has synthesized satellite imagery from visible, thermal-infrared, and radar wavelengths that are accurately over 30,000 miles of the Antarctic coastline. The researchers measured the losses where Antarctica can return to pre-2000 glacier levels by the end of this century. In west Antarctica, the accelerated glacial calving like ice thinning hit an area harder by warming ocean currents.

Related: Why are glaciers and sea ice melting?

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