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How quickly is Antarctica losing ice?

Time series of cumulative anomalies in SMB (blue), ice discharge (D, red), and total mass (M, purple) with error bars in billions of tons for (A) West Antarctica, (B) East Antarctica; (C) Antarctic Peninsula), and (D) Antarctica, with mean mass loss in billions of tons per year and an acceleration in billions of tons per year per decade for the time period 1979 to 2017.

 

The new paper, Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017, by Eric Rignot, et. el (PNAS 1/14/19) states

The total mass loss from Antarctica increased from 40 ± 9 Gt/y in the 11-y time period 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/y in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/y in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/y in 2009–2017, that is, by a factor 6.

An interesting fact from the paper:

Antarctica contains an ice volume that translates into a sea-level equivalent (SLE) of 57.2 m.

Note: 52.2m is about 188 feet. The graph with caption here is from the paper. The Washington Post has a summary of the paper in the article Ice loss from Antarctica has sextupled since the 1970s, new research finds by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis (1/14/19) and notes

It takes about 360 billion tons of ice to produce one millimeter of global sea-level rise.

Based on the last two quotes, How much ice is there on Antarctica?  NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet has Antarctica Ice data on their Ice sheets page.

Related Post: How well do we understand rising sea levels?

About Thomas J. Pfaff

Thomas J. Pfaff is a Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College. He created this website because he believes that sustainability, ranging from climate change to social justice, should be included in all courses whenever possible.

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