Polar Ice Sheets Shrinking Worldwide, Study Confirms

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The polar ice sheets are indeed shrinking—and fast, according to a comprehensive new study on climate change.


And the effects, according to an international team, are equally clear—sea levels are rising faster than predicted, which could bring about disastrous effects for people and wildlife.

Rising seas would increase the risk of catastrophic flooding like that caused by Hurricane Sandy last month in New York and New Jersey. Environmental damage may include widespread erosion, contamination of aquifers and crops, and harm to marine life. And in the long term, rising seas may force hundreds of millions of people who live along the coast to abandon their homes.

By reconciling nearly two decades of often conflicting satellite data into one format—in other words, comparing apples to apples—the new study, published in the journal Science, made a more confident estimate of what’s called ice sheet mass balance.

That refers to how much snow is deposited on an ice sheet versus how much is lost, either due to surface melting or ice breaking off glaciers.

Between 1992—when polar satellite measurements began—and 2011, the results show that all of the polar regions except for East Antarctica are losing ice, said study leader Andrew Shepherd, a professor of earth observation at the University of Leeds in the U.K.

Written By: Christine Dell’Amore
continue to source article at news.nationalgeographic.com

9 COMMENTS

  1. Quick, I need a deniers rationalization of this event!

    ” sea levels are rising faster than predicted,”

    I am hearing this bad news a lot lately. Seems the climate scientists were to conservative in their estimates, or many new surprises await reveling here. Just read something about methane release from melting tundra that was another big underestimation by the scientists studying that event.

    I once though I would be long dead and my constituent atoms well scattered before the really bad stuff happened here, but I may have made my own underestimation there.

  2. Not to be pedantic, but, I’m just a bit curious how the POLAR ice caps are melting “worldwide”, and not just at the Poles.
    (It is clear that the effects of this melting are, indeed, seen worldwide, what with rising sea levels, all the same).

  3. Tonybaldwin

    “Not to be pedantic, but, I’m just a bit curious how the POLAR ice caps are melting “worldwide”, and not just at the Poles.” 

    Of course as the bergs break away they will float and melt all over the world.  I assume they mean both poles which is significant.  It would be possible due to ocean currents for one pole to melt more than the other.  For example there are no continents in below Australia and South America to divert currents up or down and divert weather around in the same way as the Northern Hemisphere.  I can’t remember the exact details but both poles have very different  impacts.  For both to be melting as fast as they are tells us the climate scientists have been very conservative in their findings and things are getting worse quicker.

    For all the denialist criticisms of Al Gore’s  ‘Inconvenient Truth’.  I suspect if we looked at it again in light of what we’ve discovered their would be an awful lot that would need to be changed to say how much worse things are looking now.

  4. tonybaldwin
    Not to be pedantic, but, I’m just a bit curious how the POLAR ice caps are melting “worldwide”, and not just at the Poles.(It is clear that the effects of this melting are, indeed, seen worldwide, what with rising sea levels, all the same).

    It looks like some dozy editor made up, or shortened a title headline.

    Polar ice-sheets AND tropical mountain ice-caps are rapidly melting.

    The Greenland ice-sheets are melting faster than the Antarctic ones, but the heaviest initial impact is likely to be the increased ferocity of storms, and loss of irrigation dry-season melt-water from warm-climate mountain ice-caps. ( eg The Himalayan glaciers)

  5. Reckless Monkey

    Of course as the bergs break away they will float and melt all over the world.  I assume they mean both poles which is significant.

    There is a general lack of understanding of the term “Iceberg” and the size of the ‘bergs..

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl… – The Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland has calved an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan, scientists say.
    Images from a Nasa satellite show the island breaking off a tongue of ice that extends at the end of the glacier.
    In 2010 an ice island measuring 250 square km (100 square miles) broke off the same glacier.

    http://article.wn.com/view/201

    http://blogs.discovermagazine….
    As always, it’s difficult to pin any specific weather event on global warming. But every day, the list of suspicious events grows longer. The Petermann calving happened much farther up the glacier than has
    occurred before. Waves of warm air over Greenland are unusual. And the weird weather we’ve been getting is consistent with what’s been predicted for a planet that’s warming up.

    And while climate change deniers put up insulting billboards and compare climate scientists to child molesters, the Earth is getting warmer. While antiscience Congressmen write fallacy-laden op-eds and elected officials run witch hunts against scientists, the Earth is getting warmer.

    We need serious people in charge, because it’s way, way past time to take this seriously. 

  6. @OP:disqus  –
    Overall, polar ice loss has contributed about 11.1 millimeters to global sea level since 1992—roughly 20 percent of the total global sea level rise during that period, according to the study.

    What’s more, a study published earlier this week in Environmental Research Letters shows that sea levels are rising at a rate of 3.2 millimeters a year. That’s 60 percent faster than the latest estimate of 2 millimeters a year
    projected by the IPCC. (See sea level rise pictures.)

    “These results should be a major concern for politicians and climate talks in Doha, as they show that global warming is real and having major consequences that will only get bigger over time,” Trenberth said by email.
    As the World Meteorological Organization put it in a report released Wednesday during this week’s UN climate change talks in Doha, Qatar, “climate change is taking place before our eyes.” (See a map of global warming impacts worldwide.)

    In addition to displacing millions, sea level rise may also supercharge large storms. For example, when a storm like Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, higher seas may boost storm surges that can strip away everything in their path and create damaging floods.

    Once again the howls of “gross exaggeration” by denialists have been shown to be ridiculous, as reality has moved even faster than earlier scientific predictions.  These possibilities should be obvious, as unpredictable feed-backs can accelerate warming. 

    When I say “unpredictable”, I am talking about timing and extent, NOT if they are likely to happen.

    For example one effect of global warming and redistribution of rainfall patterns is the seasonal drying of large areas.
    This greatly increases the incidence and extent of forest and peat fires – releasing masses of CO2 into the atmosphere. -

    A warming climate appears to be increasing the risk of peat fires in the North, according to Flannigan. For example, in 2007, Alaska’s Anaktuvuk River region experienced a “tundra fire” fuelled by peat that covered 1,000 square kilometres. Until then, fire had largely been absent from the tundra since the Holocene epoch—12,000 years ago.

    During a forest fire, especially in years of drought, peat can also ignite. When that happens it produces a smoldering, smoky burn that is difficult to extinguish.
    Peat can grow several meters deep beneath the ground. In fact, some peat fires burn right through winter, beneath the snow, then pick up again in the spring.

    A warming climate appears to be increasing the risk of peat fires in the North, according to Flannigan. For example, in 2007, Alaska’s Anaktuvuk River region experienced a “tundra fire” fuelled by peat that covered 1,000 square kilometres.
    Until then, fire had largely been absent from the tundra since the Holocene epoch—12,000 years ago.

    Woolford’s statistical analysis has shown that the forest fire season is becoming longer. Now, climate change models have been used to predict greater risk of forest fires in the future. On top of that, a warming
    climate means dryer weather, which makes peatlands—rich in legacy carbon—more likely to ignite and release greenhouse gas emissions. This would further contribute to global warming, creating a vicious circle of
    environmental harm. – http://phys.org/news/2012-02-p… 
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    In 1997, a forest fire in Indonesia ignited an area of peatlands that smouldered for months. By the time it was over, the fire had released greenhouse gases equal to 20 to 40 percent of the total worldwide emissions that year from fossil fuels.

  7. in North Carolina they’ve already dealt with this problem by not measuring the sea levels although with everyone talking about this it may require fingers in ears and a lot of loud singing as well as eyes shut

  8. As permafrost melts and methane rises this is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 in the short term.

    The first clear ice of fall on an Alaskan lake captures methane that all summer long has bubbled from the bottom mud. In spring it will be released into the air. As permafrost melts, new lakes are forming all around the Arctic.
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic….

    Burn natural gas and it warms your house. But let it leak, from fracked wells or the melting Arctic, and it warms the whole planet. – Methane is bubbling from lakes all over the warming Arctic. Here ecologist Katey Walter Anthony (at right) ignites a large bubble that was trapped by the fall freeze—then freed by an ice pick.
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic….

    There is a Nat. Geog article on methane gas here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic….

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