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A quarter of the ice in the West Antarctic is now unstable



Stop me if you've heard that before, but the ice is twisted. New findings, released Thursday, show that a quarter of the ice sheets in West Antarctica, the most vulnerable part of the continent, have become destabilized. Loss of ice has increased fivefold within only 25 years on the region's most endangered glaciers .

Scientists have used 800 million satellite measurements since 1992 to arrive at their conclusions. The results published in Geophysical Research Letters show how quickly the changes can occur and what dangers coastal communities could face if the ice continues to melt.

The way we know that the western Antarctic is melting is manifold. There are on-site measurements, overflights by NASA scientists, and occasional boat visits. To keep track, satellites provide an important view from space. The researchers used data from a number of European Space Agency satellites that have been monitoring Antarctica since 1

992. These satellites have lasers that measure how high the ice that covers the Antarctic and extends to the sea, researchers to see how the ice level has changed over time. The researchers identified areas where rapid thinning and ice loss occurred as unstable.

The good news is that the eastern Antarctic, the highest and coldest part of the Antarctic (and most of the continental ice), is largely stable. Nevertheless, what happens in the West is not insignificant. Research shows that over the last 25 years, the region has shed enough ice to fill Lake Erie almost twelve times. And it gets worse!

The results show that 24 percent of the ice sheet is now unstable, with some parts over 400 feet thinner in the last 25 years alone. Thus, the ice researchers of the University of Leeds and lead author Andy Shepherd in a press release called "extraordinary amounts". Extraordinary, however, is not a superlative that you want to hear in the case of the West Antarctic. The imbalance has caused ice from the endangered glaciers Pine Island and Thwaites, which holds back huge amounts of ice on land, to reach the ocean five times more rapidly in 2017 than in 1992, contributing to sea-level rise.

If these glaciers break up and the ice behind them falls into the sea, it could raise sea levels by more than 3 meters and completely reshape the shores. The new study is an important check-in, how close we could be on the edge.


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