In a new study, the most comprehensive to date of the continent's icy status, an international group of 84 researchers analyzed data from multiple satellite surveys, from 1992 to 2017.
They discovered that Antarctica is currently losing ice about three times faster than it did until 2012, climbing to a rate of more than 241 billion tons (219 billion metric tons) per year. Total ice loss during the 25-year period contributed to sea level rise of about 0.3 inches (around 8 millimeters), approximately 40 percent of which — about 0.1 inches (3 mm) — happened in the past five years. [In Photos: Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf Through Time]
Millimeters of sea level rise may not sound like much, but previous surveys suggested that Antarctica's massive ice sheets likely wouldn't be affected by climate change at all. The new findings hint that the continent's ice cover may not be as resistant to warming as once thought, and present a very different picture of Antarctica's potential contributions to a rising ocean: Consider that if all of Antarctica's ice melted, the resulting water could elevate sea levels by about 190 feet (58 meters), the researchers reported.
Their study, published online today (June 13) in the journal Nature Research, is one of five Antarctica reports released simultaneously. Together, the studies evaluate past and present conditions in Antarctica to determine the impact of climate change and human activity on the continent, and to present strategies for the future of its ecology and geology.