Accelerated polar ice loss

Ice losses from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been accelerating since the 1990s, according to the latest study published today by the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE). The study, which presents a 29-year record of ice sheet mass balance from 1992 to 2020, combines 50 independent estimates of ice sheet mass balance derived from satellite observations of temporal changes in ice sheet flow, volume, and Earth’s gravity field.

The results show that between 1992 and 2020, the ice sheets contributed 21.0±1.9 mm to global mean sea level, with the rate of mass loss rising from 105 Gt yr−1 between 1992 and 1996 to 372 Gt yr−1 between 2016 and 2020. In Greenland, the rate of mass loss is 169±9 Gt yr−1, with large inter-annual variations due to variability in surface mass balance. In Antarctica, ice losses continue to be dominated by mass loss from West Antarctica (82±9 Gt yr−1) and, to a lesser extent, from the Antarctic Peninsula (13±5 Gt yr−1), while East Antarctica remains close to a state of balance with a small gain of 3±15 Gt yr−1, but is the most uncertain component of Antarctica’s mass balance.

The findings of this study highlight the urgent need for action to mitigate climate change and its impacts on polar ice sheets, as accelerated ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica is contributing to global sea level rise. The dataset from this study is publicly available, providing valuable information for researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The link to the dataset can be found at (IMBIE Team, 2021).

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