Antarctica’s Ice Is Melting 6 Times Faster Than in 1979

The ice in Antarctica melts much faster today than it did four decades ago. At least, thatís the worrisome conclusion of a new long-term study, which bodes ill for our future.

Glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Netherlands’ Utrecht University found that Antarctica experienced a sixfold increase†in ice melt from levels measured in 1979.

“Depending on how old you are and how fast we keep warming up the planet you may see the vector of catastrophically rapid sea level rise (4 meters per century scale),” lead author, UCI professor Eric Rigno, told†CBS News.

A 4-meter — or 12-foot — sea level rise would endanger coastal towns and cities. For instnace, South Florida would be largely underwater, and you can†say goodbye to Miami.

The researchers looked at 18 Antarctic regions encompassing 176 basins, plus their surrounding islands. They compared snowfall accumulation in interior basins with ice discharge by glaciers at the point where ice begins floating on the ocean and coming apart from the greater mass.

High-resolution photographs taken from 350 meters by NASAís Operation IceBridge, combined with satellite imagery dating back to the 1970s and satellite radar interferometry from multiple space agencies rounded out the imagery.

Hereís whatís particularly concerning:

  • Between 1979-1990: Antarctica lost an average of 40 gigatons of ice mass per year. (A gigaton equals one billion tons.)
  • Between 2009-2017: Antarctica lost about 252 gigatons per year

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” said Rignot in a statement. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”

The Wilkes Land sector in East Antarctica has more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula combined. One insight from this study is that ice loss from this sector has contributed to sea level rise in a greater way than has been previously understood.


The Wilkes Land sector of East Antarctica has, overall, always been an important participant in the mass loss, even as far back as the 1980s, as our research has shown.

This region is probably more sensitive to climate [change] than has traditionally been assumed, and that’s important to know, because it holds even more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula together.

Does all this melting correlate to sea level rise? The researchers believe so.

Scientists†think about 0.27 inches of sea level rise can be attributed to West Antarctica ice melt, 0.17 inches to East Antarctica and .098 inches to the Antarctic Peninsula.

sea ice breaking up

Photo credit: Getty Images

“The problem is that the melting ice and rising sea tends to follow an exponential path,” John Englander, a sea level rise expert, told†CBS News.

Eventually, itís not just melting ice that presents the danger. When the edges of the glaciers become destabilized, massive ice sheets break off into the water, pushing levels suddenly higher.

And thatís very bad news. Itís an eventuality†that we should be paying close attention to, but sadly our current administration will not do so. We are, in fact, going in the opposite direction — pulling out of climate change agreements, dropping or changing environmental requirements aimed at putting the brakes on climate effects, and so on.

Itís a shortsighted and ill-considered approach to the future. These same leaders, now in their 60s or 70s, wonít be here in the 20 or 30 years it will take for these mistakes to come back to haunt us.

Many of you reading this will be here, though. So will your children. What future do you want for them?

Photo credit: Getty Images


Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 months ago

Dan B. I knew you would jump in on this one as usual, snarkily deny the facts and promote the destruction of the earth if it affects the bottom line of your oil company masters. Would you please shut up. You do NOT have the education or knowledge you keep claiming you have, none. You're a third rate propagandist and a bad one at that.

Dan B
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Colin C.,
I suspect when one of the warnings actually materializes. Otherwise, it is akin to the boy who called wolf.

David C
David C2 months ago

thank you

Colin C
Colin Clauscen2 months ago

How many warnings will it take for a change to come

Lindsay Kemp
Lindsay Kemp2 months ago

Many thanks for sharing. Scary, indeed!

Carol J
Carol Johnson2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

David C
David C2 months ago

not good.thanks

Sheila Miller
Sheila Miller2 months ago

It is amazing how human beings have destroyed the planet earth. People have to start caring and showing concern. We must save the animals and the environment!

salah z
salah z2 months ago

Plant trees to cool mother earth....#ecosia. She needs us all💚💚💚💚💚💚