Antarctica’s ice loss has tripled in the last decade, according to a new study that’s got former Vice President Al Gore warning about how ice sheet melt “poses a grave threat to humanity.”
“New, startling evidence of ice sheet melt in Antarctica that poses a grave threat to humanity,” Gore tweeted, linking to a Washington Post article claiming the new study showed “some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized.”
How much? About half a millimeter, or 0.02 inches, per year.
The new study sparked a wave of alarming news coverage on sea level rise. Accelerating sea level rise is “leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped,” The Post’s Chris Mooney reported, suggesting the world had “perhaps no more than a decade” to avoid catastrophic global warming.
“That’s enough water to cover Texas almost 13 feet deep,” reporter Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press tweeted of the ice melt study, published by a team of 80 scientists in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
In total, Antarctic ice melt has discharged three trillion tons into the sea since 1992. The Nature study found Antarctica lost 219 billion tons of ice from 2012 to 2017, triple the 73 billion tons lost per year about a decade ago.
The study also notes that forty percent, or 1.2 trillion tons, of ice melt occurred within the last five years. Coincidentally, an incredibly strong El Nino warming hit in late 2015 and persisted well into 2016.
It also remains to be seen what will become of conflicting research on Antarctic ice melt. A 2015 NASA study found the South Pole increased in mass from 1992 through at least 2008. The study’s lead author Jay Zwally did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Reported ice melt is almost exclusively driven by instability in the western Antarctic ice sheet, which is being eaten away from below by warm ocean water. The eastern ice sheet, however, has gained mass over this time, though there’s huge uncertainty with that figure.
Uncertainty over eastern Antarctic ice gain fuels the discrepancy between Zwally’s 2015 study and past estimates of net ice sheet loss.
Scientists behind the Nature study said Antarctic ice melt had raised sea levels nearly 7.6 millimeters, or three-tenths of an inch.
Antarctic expert Rob DeConto told The Post the Nature study only found sea level rise that’s less than one-tenth of what is expected under the worst-case scenarios for global warming.
“We’re still talking about roughly a half a millimeter per year,” DeConto said. “That isn’t going to sound horribly unmanageable.”
“But remember for the Northern Hemisphere, for North America, the fact that the location in West Antarctica is where the action is amplifies that rate of sea-level rise by up to about an additional 25 percent in a city like Boston or New York,” DeConto said.
This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller.