The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting at a pace seven times higher than that of 30 years ago, and the amount of ice lost could make an ice cube 12 miles high, a new study finds.

Published by the journal Earth System Science Data, more than 50 international researchers from the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise used data from satellite readings to track ice sheet volumes and ice flow between 1992-2020, per CNN.

The Associated Press said the researchers also measured snowfall levels, snow melt levels and ice chunks lost by falling off glaciers or eroded by warm waters beneath.

They found that “Greenland’s average annual melt from 2017 to 2020 was 20% more a year than at the beginning of the decade and more than seven times higher than its annual shrinkage in the early 1990s,” per The Associated Press.

Ines Otosaka, lead author of the study and glaciologist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, told The Associated Press that human-caused climate change is the reason for the rapid ice melt.

Greenland and Antarctica

According to CNN, the Arctic heatwave caused more than 8.3 trillion tons of ice to melt between 1992-2020, the worst year being 2019, which lost 675 billion tons of ice alone.

Ruth Mottram, study co-author and climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told The Associated Press the study findings “are pretty disastrous really,” and “we’re losing more and more ice from Greenland.”

Otosaka told CNN that while she expects the Greenland ice sheet to keep losing ice, the Antarctic ice sheet’s future is undecided.

“We have what we call some low-probability but high-impact mechanisms that could be triggered if we exceed a certain level of warming,” Otosaka told the news outlet.


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Waleed Abdalati, former NASA chief scientist and ice researcher at the University of Colorado, told The Associated Press, “This matters because rising sea levels will displace and/or financially impact hundreds of millions of people, if not billions, and will likely cost trillions of dollars.”

CNN said the lost ice is affecting oceans, with sea levels rising just less than an inch.

Andrew Shepherd, founder of the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise, said in a statement reported by CNN: “We are finally at the stage where we can continuously update our assessments of ice sheet mass balance as there are enough satellites in space monitoring them, which means that people can make use of our findings immediately.”

The report said it’s important to monitor the ice sheets and to be able to predict future sea level rise.

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