Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting rapidly and driving sea level rise, new satellite data finds

The Earth’s ice sheets lost enough ice over the last 30 years to create an ice cube 12 miles high, according to new research.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which hold almost all of the world’s freshwater ice, are shrinking at a frighteningly rapid pace, according to a report on Thursday from a team of international scientists.

Combining data from 50 satellite surveys of Antarctica and Greenland, spanning the years 1992 to 2020, scientists from the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise, or IMBIE, were able to track changes in the ice sheets’ volume and ice flow.

They found that ice sheet melting has increased six-fold over the past 30 years, as record levels of planet-heating pollution push up global temperatures.

In all, the polar ice sheets lost more than 8.3 trillion tons of ice between 1992 and 2020, according to the report.

The worst year for ice sheet loss was 2019, the report found, when the ice sheets lost around 675 billion tons of ice. These losses were driven by an Arctic heatwave, which saw Greenland’s ice sheet shed 489 billion tons.

The loss of ice is having a significant impact on the oceans, pushing up sea levels by 21 millimeters (just less than an inch), according to the report. Ice sheet melting now accounts for a quarter of all sea level rise – a fivefold increase since the 1990s.

“This is a huge amount of ice,” study lead author Inès Otosaka, a research fellow at the University of Leeds, told CNN. “This is very worrying, of course, because 40% of the global population lives in coastal areas,” she said.



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