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Antarctic ice melt has resulted in 7.5mm sea level rise in 25 years - report

Wed 13 June 2018 | Back to news list

Antarctica has lost 2.7 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, contributing to a global sea level rise of more than 7.5mm over that period according to a new report published in the journal Nature. Ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to approximately treble over the period.

The study says that ice melt has undergone a three-fold increase since 2012 when the last such assessment was undertaken.

Researchers say the losses are occurring predominantly in the west of the continent, where warm waters are getting under and melting the fronts of glaciers that terminate in the ocean.

Prof Andrew Shepherd, who leads the Ice sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (Imbie) told BBC News: "We can't say when it started - we didn't collect measurements in the sea back then. But what we can say is that it's too warm for Antarctica today. 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." 

Globally, sea levels are rising by about 3mm a year. This figure is driven by several factors, including the expansion of the oceans as they warm. But what is clear from the latest Imbie assessment is that Antarctica is becoming a significant player.

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