Were you to even be a minimal user of social media, you would find that the #10yearchallenge was in full swing: people posting photos of themselves 10 years ago until now. However, some people used it to make a more pertinent point – with some climate activists using it to post pictures of rapidly degrading parts of the world.
If these images resonated with you, then this might also do so: according to NASA, Antarctica is losing roughly six times more ice every single year than it was in 1979.
That’s a hell of a lot of work and ‘progress’ for a few short decades. The levels at which we are seeing ice melting should worry us all, yet little is done to try and combat the issue. These new numbers from NASA, though, should be the wake-up call that we need.
Thanks to a new study put together in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, we now know that the ice mass loss in Antarctica is accelerating at a pace we can barely keep track of.
Naturally, this is not a good thing. It’s going to cause a huge amount of issues and is only likely to get worse. This is according to Eric Rignot, the lead author on the study, who works for the University of California as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who said: "That's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,
"As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries."
If that does not make you think that we need to act now, you have to look around to work out what the next step is.
As the largest assessment of its kind across Antarctic ice mass this is going to provide us with a case study of what has to change. The team used all manner of imagery from NASA aircraft as well as useful satellite data collected by numerous groups.
With around 40 billion tons of ice lost per year from 1979-1990, today we see around 252 billion tons wiped off the Antarctic. That means that we are seeing, roughly, a 280% increase on the amount of ice that was lost from 1979-2001. In 16 years, we’ve done so much incredible damage.
Rignot continued, adding: "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 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.”
Is the prognosis good, though? Not according to Rignot: "As climate warming and ozone depletion send more ocean heat toward those sectors, they will continue to contribute to sea level rise from Antarctica in decades to come.” He concluded.
This is a worrying development and one which should require urgent action – worldwide. We’re beginning to see more and more information come out with regards to the severity of the climate change impact. We might not be able to stop this, but we could mitigate it: we need to act as soon as possible, though, or stories like this will become increasingly commonplace.