We’ve been hearing since a while that ice in the polar regions is melting which is causing a rise in the water levels that is expected to cause irreversible damage to human and animal life in the future.
However, now, new research has revealed that approximately 28 trillion tonnes of ice has melted from our planet between the year 1994 and 2017.
To put things into perspective, this much ice can cover the whole nation of the United Kingdom in an ice sheet over 300 feet thick. Yes, that much!
This is according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds — the first-ever global survey of ice loss based on data collected from satellites around our planet.
Researchers looked at 215,000 mountain glaciers spread around the planet, the polar ice sheets in Greenland as well as Antarctica, ice shelves floating around Antarctica and sea ice drifting in the Arctic and Southern Oceans.
Researchers discovered that the annual rate of ice loss has spiked over 65 percent in the aforementioned 23-year period. As per the data the melt has been largely driven by massive losses from polar ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.
Thomas Slater, of the University of Leeds, explains, “Although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most. Sea-level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century.”
Researchers believe that the exponential rise in ice loss is due to the warming up of the planet’s oceans which have seen temperatures rise of 0.26 degrees Celsius and 0.12 degrees Celsius, every decade since the year 1980. Out of the total ice melted, 32 percent is due to oceans whereas the rest 68 percent is due to atmospheric melting.
Paper author and earth scientist Isobel Lawrence further explained, “Sea ice loss doesn’t contribute directly to sea-level rise but it does have an indirect influence. One of the key roles of Arctic sea ice is to reflect solar radiation back into space which helps keep the Arctic cool.”
He added, “As the sea ice shrinks, more solar energy is being absorbed by the oceans and atmosphere, causing the Arctic to warm faster than anywhere else on the planet. Not only is this speeding up sea ice melt, it’s also exacerbating the melting of glaciers and ice sheets which causes sea levels to rise.”
Researchers have warned that not only will this cause a rise in sea levels, it will also affect freshwater resources for local communities.