Ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, according to a major new international climate assessment funded by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The trend has increased global sea levels by 0.12 in. (3 mm) in that time frame alone. Since 2012, the amount of ice loss per year has tripled to 241.4 billion tons (219 billion metric tons).
Analysis of the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992 to 2017 revealed ice losses from Antarctica raised global sea levels by 0.3 in. (7.6 mm), with a sharp uptick in ice loss in recent years. The threefold increase in ice loss from the continent since 2012 is attributed to a combination of increased rates of ice melt in west Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, and reduced growth of the east Antarctic ice sheet.
West Antarctica experienced the biggest ice loss, going from a loss of 58.4 billion tons (53 billion metric tons) per year in the 1990s to 175.3 billion tons (159 billion metric tons) per year since 2012. Most of this is due to the rapid retreat of the Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier, owing to warmer seawater under their floating shelves.
The researchers concluded that Antarctica's potential contribution to global sea level rise from its land-held ice is almost 7.5 times greater than all other sources of land-held ice in the world combined. The continent stores enough frozen water to raise global sea levels by 190 ft. (58 m) if it were to melt entirely.
The analysis, which combined 24 satellite surveys of Antarctica and involved 80 scientists from 42 international organizations, is published in Nature.