A team from the universities of Edinburgh, Leeds and University College London said that the speed at which ice melts in the world’s polar regions and mountains has increased significantly over the past 30 years.
Using satellite data, experts found that the Earth lost 28 trillion tons of ice between 1994 and 2017.
They said the rate of loss had fallen from 0.8 trillion tons per year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tons per year by 2017, with potentially dire consequences for people living in coastal areas.
“Ice caps are now following the worst global warming scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” said Thomas Slater, a researcher at the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling at the University of Leeds.
“Sea level rise at this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities during this century.”
The contribution of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been central to developing international strategies on climate change, including the 2015 Paris Agreement by which most countries that emit greenhouse gases have agreed to take measures to mitigate the effects of global warming.
A university paper, published in the European Union’s Earth Sciences journal, The Cryosphere, was the first of its kind to use satellite data.
He studied 215,000 mountain glaciers around the world, polar ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica, floating shelves of ice around Antarctica, drifting sea ice in the Arctic and the Southern Ocean.
Losses in the Arctic and Antarctica
The study found that the biggest losses over the past three decades have come from Arctic sea ice and Antarctic ice shelves, both of which are floating in the polar oceans.
While ice loss does not directly contribute to sea level rise, its destruction prevents ice caps from reflecting solar radiation and thus contributes indirectly to sea level rise.
“As sea ice shrinks, the oceans and atmosphere absorb more solar energy, causing the Arctic to warm faster than anywhere else on the planet,” said Isobel Lawrence.And Researcher at the University of Leeds
“Not only does this accelerate the melting of sea ice, but it also exacerbates melting of glaciers and ice caps, which leads to rising sea levels,” she added.
A previous study published in the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that global sea levels could rise 2 meters (6.5 feet) by the end of this century due to global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.
The report also says that in the worst-case scenario, global temperatures would rise by more than five degrees Fahrenheit (nine degrees Fahrenheit), causing waters to rise, displacing millions of people who live in coastal areas.
Another study, published by the US Central Climate Foundation in 2019, said that up to 300 million people could be affected by devastating floods by 2050, nearly three times what it was previously. The number could rise to 630 million by 2100.
The study warned that major coastal cities like Mumbai in India, Shanghai in China, and Bangkok in Thailand could be submerged over the next 30 years.
According to the research, about 237 million people are threatened by sea level rise in Asia alone.