NASA is currently carrying out 11 satellite missions that are monitoring the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. These missions indicate that the ice sheet is now melting six times faster than it was in the 1990s. NASA also noted that if the melting trend continues, these areas are on track to reach the worst-case scenario of sea level rise by 2100.
The study, recently published, involved a team of 89 polar scientists from 50 organizations, making it the most comprehensive assessment to date. The survey used measurement satellites including NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Altitude Satellite and NASA’s German Space Center Gravity Recovery Climate Experiment Satellite.
The team calculates that 81 billion tons of ice sheet slosses were lost each year in the 1990s and 475 billion tons a year in the last decade, a six-fold increase. Studies have shown that Greenland and Antarctica have lost a total of 6.4 trillion tons of ice since the 1990s. Melting water from melting ice has increased global sea levels by 0.7 inches, with melting polar ice sheets accounting for a third of that.
Of the total sea level rise, 60 per cent of the melting water comes from the melting Greenland ice sheet and 40 per cent from the melting Antarctic and ice sheets. A 2014 report predicted that global sea levels could rise by 28 inches by 2100, and this new study suggests that melting ice is on track to reach that figure.
The total loss of the two ice caps peaked at 552 billion tonnes per year in 2010 and averaged 475 billion tons per year over the next decade. The team does believe that the loss of ice sheets from the 2019 Arctic heat wave will set a new record, but they say more analysis is needed. In addition, antarctica’s marginal glaciers are being melted by the ocean, which has accelerated the global melting of ice.