An analysis of satellite data collected since 1992 suggests that ocean-driven melting has led to a tripling in the rate of ice loss from West Antarctica, from 53 billion to 159 billion metric tons per year.
The study was conducted by a group of researchers as part of the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise, or IMBIE, and published today in the journal Nature.
Estimated annual ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula rose from 7 billion to 33 billion metric tons over the same 25-year period, due to ice shelf collapse.
East Antarctica’s ice sheet, however, is gaining mass at an average rate of 5 billion metric tons per year. The main factor behind that gain appears to be fluctuations in snowfall, researchers said.
The analysis suggests that 3 trillion tons’ worth of Antarctic ice losses have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm (0.3 inches) since 1992, and that the increase is accelerating.