Melting Arctic Ice Adds 14,000 Tons of Water Per Second to Rising Sea Levels, Study Says

December 27, 2018, 11:48 PM UTC
Melting iceberg in the Arctic Ocean.
Water from Arctic ice melt adds to rising sea levels as global warming contributes to climate change. Most in Greenland, Alaska, N. Canada. Here, a melting iceberg in the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard / Spitsbergen, Norway. (Photo by: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)
Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

Melting Arctic ice from glaciers and surface ice is producing the equivalent of 14,000 tons per second of water into the Earth’s oceans, a recent scientific survey found.

Examining land-ice patterns in the Arctic between 1971 and 2017, the study concluded that in the past 47 years, ice melting in the Arctic has contributed 23 millimeters (nearly an inch) to rising sea levels. That’s a greater amount than Antartica has produced in that time, even though Antarctica contains more ice, although it’s possible that Antarctic ice could melt more rapidly in the future.

The study was conducted by scientists in the U.S., Canada, Chile, the Netherlands, and Norway and published this month in Environmental Research Letters. The researchers looked at ice in 17 locations across the Arctic, including Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Scandanavia, and Arctic Russia.

The rate of melting began accelerating around the mid-1980s and occurred at an even faster pace in the past decade.

“The total loss of ice from Arctic glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland ice sheet has averaged 447 Gigatons of loss per year in the recent decade. If we divided the recent ice loss among the world’s nearly 8 billion people, each person would get 160 litres (or 40 gallons) of water, each and every day of the year,” a video accompanying the study said.

“The loss rate of Arctic land ice has increased threefold since 1986, from nearly 5000 tons of water per second during the ‘recent past’ (1986–2005) to 14,000 tons per second in the present day (2005–2015),” the video explained. “The present loss rate of Arctic ice is equivalent with 200 times the flow of the Thames river or nearly that of the Mississippi river.”

Nearly half of the ice loss has occurred in Greenland, followed by Alaska and Northern Canada.

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