New Delhi (NVI): A total of 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994, according to a latest report.
The scientists – based at Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London – describe the level of ice loss as “staggering” and warn that their analysis indicates that sea level rises, triggered by melting glaciers and ice sheets, could reach a metre by the end of the century.
The review paper, called Earth’s Ice Imbalance was published in the journal Cryosphere Discussions states that ice loss has increased by 49 per cent over the past 24 years compared to the 1990s and earlier.
UK scientists who have analysed satellite surveys of the planet’s poles, mountains and glaciers to measure how much ice coverage lost because of global heating triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions stated, “To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands.”
The group studied satellite surveys of glaciers in South America, Asia, Canada and other regions; sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic; ice sheets that cover the ground in Antarctica and Greenland; and ice shelves that protrude from the Antarctic mainland into the sea. The study covered the years 1994 to 2017.
To put the losses experienced into context, 28 trillion tonnes of ice would cover the entire surface of the UK with a sheet of frozen water that is 100 metres thick.
The scientists also warn that the melting of ice in these quantities is now seriously reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space.
White ice is disappearing and the dark sea or soil exposed beneath it is absorbing more and more heat, further increasing the warming of the planet.
In addition, cold fresh water pouring from melting glaciers and ice sheets is causing major disruptions to the biological health of Arctic and Antarctic waters, while loss of glaciers in mountain ranges threatens to wipe out sources of fresh water on which local communities depend.
The level of ice loss revealed by the group of scientists matches the worst-case-scenario predictions outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The researchers’ conclusion is that all the regions have suffered devastating reductions in ice cover in the past three decades and these losses are continuing.
In the case of the melting ice sheet in Antarctica, rising sea temperatures have been the main driver while increasing atmospheric temperatures have been the cause of ice loss from inland glaciers such as those in the Himalayas.
However, in Greenland, ice loss has been triggered by a combination of both sea and atmospheric temperatures increasing.