An accelerating thaw of Antarctica has pushed up world sea levels by almost a centimeter since the early 1990s in a risk for coasts from Pacific islands to Florida, an international team of scientists said on Thursday.
Antarctica has enough ice to raise seas by 58 meters (190 ft) if it ever all melted, dwarfing frozen stores in places from Greenland to the Himalayas and making its future the biggest uncertainty in understanding global warming and ocean levels.
The frozen continent lost almost three trillion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, the 84 scientists said in what they called the most complete overview of Antarctic ice to date.
The thaw, tracked by satellite data and other measurements, contributed 0.76 cm to sea level rise since 1992, they wrote in the journal Nature.
And the ice losses quickened to 219 billion tonnes a year since 2012, from 76 billion previously. “The sharp increase … is a big surprise,” professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds and a leader of the report, told Reuters.