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Antarctica’s ice is melting 6 times faster today than 39 years ago, risks metres of sea level rise


Washington, Jan 16: A new study led by a group of international scientists, including those from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), shows that the Antarctica is melting more than six times faster than it did in the 1980s.

Scientists used aerial photographs, satellite measurements and computer models to track how fast the southern-most continent has been melting since 1979 in 176 individual basins. They found the ice loss to be accelerating dramatically - a key indicator of human-caused climate change.

Antarctica’s ice is melting 6 times faster today than 39 years ago, risks metres of sea level rise

Since 2009, Antarctica has lost almost 252 billion tonnes of ice per year, the new study found. In the 1980s, it was losing 40 billion tonnes a year.

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The recent melting rate is 15 per cent higher than what a study found last year.

Eric Rignot, a University of California, Irvine, ice scientist, was the lead author on the new study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He said the big difference is that his satellite-based study found East Antarctica, which used to be considered stable, is losing 51 billion tonnes of ice a year. Last year's study, which took several teams' work into consideration, found little to no loss in East Antarctica recently and gains in the past.

Researchers conducted the longest-ever assessment of remaining Antarctic ice mass for the study, which was first appeared in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The project, which was also geographically comprehensive, examined a total of 18 regions encompassing 176 basins, as well as surrounding islands.

Meanwhile, Global sea levels have risen about 20 centimetres (8 inches) in the past century and many other studies have shown a faster thaw from Greenland to Antarctica, threatening coasts from Bangladesh to Florida and cities from London to Shanghai.

Antarctica contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 57 metres if it ever all melted, a process that would require far higher temperatures than now and thousands of years.

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