Estimates put the West Antarctic Ice Sheet loss in 2006 at about 132 billion tonnes compared with a loss of 83 billion tonnes in 1996. The Antarctic peninsula lost about 60 billion tonnes of ice in 2006. The average rise in sea level since the past decade was 3.4mm per year against 1.8mm per year during the 20th century. ''To put these figures into perspective, 4 billion tonnes of ice is enough to provide drinking water for the whole UK population for one year,'' Professor Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol was quoted by The Independent as saying. ''We think the glaciers of the Antarctic are moving faster to the sea. The computer models of future sea-level rise have not really taken this into account,'' he added.
Scientists now believe that the prediction by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that sea levels will rise by no more than about 50cm by 2100 is too conservative.
''I agree with a number of scientists who feel the IPCC is likely to have underestimated the upper bound of predicted sea-level rise by the end of the century-50 cm is probably too conservative,'' Prof Bamber said.
Eric Rignot, who led the latest study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, said the findings indicated a rapid loss of ice to the sea rather than a net gain.
The acceleration in ice loss over the past 10 years could increase in coming decades, Dr Rignot added.