ALASKA (US) – With climate change pushing global temperatures, Earth ice is losing ice faster today than compared to the mid-1990s, according to research.
In total estimated 28 trillion metric tons of ice have melted away from the world’s sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers since the mid-1990s. Annually, the melt rate is now about 57 percent faster than it was three decades ago, scientists report in a study published Monday in the journal The Cryosphere.
“It was a surprise to see such a large increase in just 30 years,” said co-author Thomas Slater, a glaciologist at Leeds University in Britain.
Slater also pointed out that while the situation is clear to those depending on mountain glaciers for drinking water, or relying on winter sea ice to protect coastal homes from storms, the world’s ice melt has begun to grab attention far from frozen regions.
“People do recognize that, although the ice is far away, the effects of the melting will be felt by them,” he said.
Ice loss from mountain glaciers accounted for 22 percent of the annual ice loss totals, which is noteworthy considering it accounts for only about 1 percent of all land ice atop land, Slater said. The melting of land ice – on Antarctica, Greenland and mountain glaciers – added enough water to the ocean during the three-decade time period to raise the average global sea level by 3.5 centimeters.
The global atmospheric temperature has risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. But in the Arctic, the warming rate has been more than twice the global average in the last 30 years.
Using 1994–2017 satellite data, site measurements and some computer simulations, the team of British scientists calculated that the world was losing an average of 0.8 trillion metric tons of ice per year in the 1990s, but about 1.2 trillion metric tons annually in recent years.
Research scientist Julienne Stroeve of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado noted the study had not included snow cover over land, “which also has a strong albedo feedback”, referring to a measure of how reflective a surface is.
The research also did not consider river or lake ice or permafrost, except to say that “these elements of the cryosphere have also experienced considerable change over recent decades.”