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Antarctica's floating ice shelves have lost enough water to fill the Grand Canyon

  • Published at 06:48 pm August 12th, 2020
Antarctica: Chiriguano Bay in South Shetland Islands
View of a glacier at sunset at Chiriguano Bay in South Shetland Islands, Antarctica on November 07, 2019 AFP

Ice shelf loss does not directly impact sea-level rise as they are already floating in the water

The volume of water loss from Antarctica’s floating ice shelves over the past 25 years would fill the Grand Canyon, the Independent reported.

Floating ice shelves have experienced a loss of nearly 4,000 gigatons since 1994, producing an amount of meltwater that can nearly fill the Grand Canyon, according to a new study published on Monday.

Scientists explain that the loss is a result of melting from increased heat in the ocean under the ice shelves and that the ice is melting faster than it is being replenished.

Although there was much variation in the rate at which the ocean is melting the ice shelves, overall the ice is melting faster than it is being replaced in Antarctica.

The team, led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, created a detailed history of mass loss from Antarctica’s floating ice shelves.

They used 25 years' data from four separate European Space Agency (ESA) satellite missions, Nasa ice velocity data and outputs from Nasa computer models.

Ice shelf loss does not directly impact sea-level rise as they are already floating in the water. However ice shelves form gigantic buttresses to slow the slide of ice sheets into the ocean and therefore, as they shrink, their ability to hold back ice sheets begins to falter.

Antarctica holds enough ice to raise sea levels globally by an estimated 197 feet. The West Antarctic ice sheet, considered to be in a precarious position by some scientists, would increase global seal levels by 10 feet if it were to melt completely.

Global sea levels have risen by more than six inches in the past 70 years, with half of that occurring since 2000. Even half a foot of sea-level rise has led to a 233% average increase in tidal flooding across the US, according to Sealevelrise.org.

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