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Oh, Great: Antarctica and Greenland Are Melting Faster Than Ever

The two largest ice sheets in the world are melting faster than any time in the last 20 years.

by Max Cherney
Aug 21 2014, 9:00pm

Image: Shutterstock

Oh great, ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland are melting at the fastest rate in recorded history.

A group of researchers in Germany spent about three years measuring the two ice sheets melting, and figured out that with the two sheets combined, they're thinning at the rate of about 500 cubic kilometers every year, according to research published yesterday in The Cryopshere.

"When we compare the current data with those from the ICESat satellite from the year 2009, the volume loss in Greenland has doubled since then," one of the study's authors, glaciologist Angelika Humbert, said. "The loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has in the same time span increased by a factor of 3 … that is the highest speed observed since altimetry satellite records began about 20 years ago."

As the name implies, ICESat is used to measure ice loss around the world, and it uses elevation to do so. The researchers, of the Alfred Wegener Institute, use the satellite to shoot radar and lasers at the ice and retrieve the signal that bounces back. 

Obviously, 500 cubic kilometers of ice melting into the ocean doesn't bode well for humanity, considering that both Antarctica and Greenland ice melt are major drivers of sea level rise. Ice melt can also cause tides changes, larger waves, and shoreline erosion, according to the US Geological Survey.

And it's not just the ice sheets: A recent study published in the journal Science showed, yet again, that humans are the main driver of glacier melt.

Alarmingly, those scientists concluded that if we don't do anything about it about 70 percent of the world's glacier mass will melt by 2100. If we take "strong mitigation measures" we might be able to get that number down to 40 percent.

So, the ice sheets are melting, the glaciers are melting, all the ice is melting. At this point, it's astonishing that anyone would try to deny that climate change is taking place. Maybe they should listen to the sounds of glaciers melting for a bit of a reality check.

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