Antarctic ice is melting six times faster than it did in the 1980s and could 'destabilize' glaciers

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

An alarming new study shows that ice in Antarctica is melting more than six times faster than it did in the 1980s, including areas that were thought to be relatively stable and resistant to change.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that Antarctic ice melting between 1979 to 2017 raised global sea levels more than 1.4 centimeters and the ice loss is accelerating dramatically — a key indicator of human-caused climate change.

Scientists used aerial photographs, satellite measurements and computer models in 176 individual basins to make the determination.

"The mass loss is dominated by enhanced glacier flow in areas closest to warm, salty, subsurface circumpolar deep water, including East Antarctica, which has been a major contributor over the entire period," a statement in the study said. "The same sectors are likely to dominate sea-level rise from Antarctica in decades to come as enhanced polar westerlies push more circumpolar deep water toward the glaciers."

Since 2009, Antarctica has lost almost 278 billion tons (252 billion metric tons) of ice per year, according to the new study. In the 1980s, it was losing 44 billion tons (40 billion metric tons) a year.

"During the entire period, the mass loss concentrated in areas closest to warm, salty, subsurface, circumpolar deep water (CDW), that is, consistent with enhanced polar westerlies pushing CDW toward Antarctica to melt its floating ice shelves, destabilize the glaciers, and raise sea level," the study's abstract reads.

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