Antarctica's ice sheet is melting 3 times faster than before

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Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Pippa Whitehouse"Push a balloon filled with honey- it rebounds when you remove your hand

The study looked at the "mass balance of the Antarctica Ice Sheet between 1992 and 2017", and found that during that time the continent lost three trillion tons of ice and raised sea levels three-tenths of an inch, according to the New York Times. But in the period between 2012 to 2017, the figure jumps to a staggering 219 billion tonnes per year.

Antarctica has lost about three trillion tonnes of ice since 1992 and scientists say the window of opportunity to prevent major meltdown of the icesheets is narrowing.

"The increasing mass loss that they're finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that's changing most rapidly and it's the area that we're most anxious about, because it's below sea level, " said Christine Dow, a glaciologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who was not involved in the research.

Scientists have acknowledged that these sad results surpassed their expectations.

"I don't know if it's going to keep exactly tripling, but I think it has a lot of potential to keep significantly increasing, " said Velicogna.

Unlike the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, though, it's been resistant to melt as conditions warm. Geological evidence indicates that some marine-based portions of the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets retreated during parts of the Pliocene, but it remains uncertain whether ice grounded above sea level also experienced retreat.

The vast majority of the ice loss is occurring in West Antarctica where warm water is intruding under glaciers and causing them to become more unstable with each passing year. You can see ice loss in that area over time in the video above.

A separate study - also published in Nature this week - found that global sea levels could be 3 feet higher by 2070 if nothing is done to curb the ice loss in the next few years.

Regardless of the exact rate, these findings emphasize the importance of efforts to combat climate change. "The future of Antarctica is tied to that of the rest of the planet and human society", said Steve Rintoul, of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research in Hobart, Tasmania, and one of the research team. If the rate does not increase, that would imply that sea level would rise by an average of 10 inches by 2100. The water nibbles at the floating edges of ice sheets from below.

"According to our analysis, there has been a steep increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the last decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years", said Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, UK, who led the assessment.

The changes will not be steady, in any case, said Knut Christianson, an Antarctic researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, by email.

The research team measured isotopes produced by the interaction between cosmic rays and the nucleus of an atom, called cosmogenic nuclides, in glacial sediment from Antarctic's largest ice shelf.

In April, a team of United Kingdom researchers released a report saying that underwater glaciers in Antarctica are melting at an "alarming rate".

This new knowledge will help us better predict sea level rise in the future.

"The kinds of changes that we see today, if they were not to increase much more. then maybe we're talking about something that is manageable for coastal stakeholders, " said DeConto.

"Unfortunately, we appear to be on a pathway to substantial ice-sheet loss in the decades ahead, with longer-term consequences for enhanced sea-level rise; something that has been predicted in models for some time".

Shepherd says until 2010, the data had been tracking a lower scenario which estimated that Antarctica "wouldn't make much of a contribution to sea level rise at all" because of the effects of higher snowfall.

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