This is not good news. A new international study—done by 47 experts using data from multiple satellites and aircraft—shows that the Earth is losing ice at an ever-increasing rate from both poles. We’ve known for years that the Arctic has been suffering massive ice loss, with the record low broken more than once in recent years. What’s devastating about this new report is that it shows unequivocally and quantitatively that the Antarctic is also losing land ice, with the critical West Antarctica ice sheet losing on average 65 billion tons of ice every year.
Measuring ice is difficult to do and uncertainties are generally pretty big. By combining several different methods from several different sources, the scientists were able to get the best, most accurate measurements ever made. These new data show that the ice loss from both poles has increased by a factor of three since the 1990s. Just Greenland—the largest source of fresh water ice in the Northern Hemisphere—is losing ice at a rate five times what it did just in the 1990s: about 142 billion tons per year.
This new study wipes out yet another false claim from climate change deniers, too. A common refrain from them is that Antarctic ice is increasing, not decreasing. However, this is not true for two reasons. The first is that they count sea ice in that measure. However, Antarctic sea ice tends to melt away completely every year in the spring and summer, and then it reforms in the winter. It therefore on average does not contribute to sea level rise or to the heat budget of the Earth. Second, this new study shows the claim is wrong anyway. We are losing ice from Antarctica every year, and it’s the critical land ice.