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Professor Andrew Shepherd at Leeds University said: "According to our analysis, there has been a step increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years".

"The increasing mass loss that they're finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that's changing most rapidly and it's the area that we're most anxious about, because it's below sea level, " said Christine Dow, a glaciologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who was not involved in the research.

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is one of three major ice sheets closely watched by scientists as global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels increase, glaciers melt and sea levels rise.

Prior to 2012, Antarctica lost 67 billion tonnes (74 billion tons) per year, contributing to a 0.2-millimeter rise in sea levels.

The greatest change in annual ice loss was in West Antarctica, averaging around 58 billion tons in the years leading up to 2012, then skyrocketing to 175 billion tons per year in the five years since.

The latest figures show East Antarctica is losing relatively little ice a year _ about 31 tons (28 metric tons) _ since 2012.

The researchers attribute the increased losses in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsular to changes in regional floating-ice shelves, which can provide a buffer to continental-ice sheets. This is the most complete picture of Antarctic ice sheet change to date - 84 scientists from 44 worldwide organizations combined 24 satellite surveys to produce the assessment.

"The future we choose could determine when we need to rebuild airports, cities and infrastructure so that we can become resilient to such changes", she said.

Scientists have long believed the last glacial period, famously known as the Ice Age, ended with a period of continued warming which resulted in the shrinking of ice sheets and an increase in sea levels for thousands of years.

The Antarctic Peninsula from the air: although the mountains are plastered in snow and ice, measurements tell us that this region is losing ice at an increasing rate.

The penguins aren't the only ones who could be hurt by rising seas
Antarctica lost an unprecedented amount of ice in the last five years

To get around those problems in this study, more than 80 researchers from around the world collected data from about a dozen different satellite measurements dating to the early 1990s. "They allow us to test whether our models can reproduce present-day change and give us more confidence in our projections of future ice loss".

The team from northern IL analyzed sediments from the base of the ice sheet in Ross Sea region and found signs of left behind by marine life, which indicated the area was linked to ocean waters sometime in the last 40,000 years, which was more recent than previously thought.

"The contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet is now the greatest source of uncertainty in projections of global mean sea level rise", Bennetts said.

Last year, a project carried out by British-based researchers revealed 91 volcanoes beneath the surface in the west of Antarctica, meaning there are now at least 138 underwater craters in the region.

The rate at which ice is melting on Antarctica has tripled in recent years, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature, a scientific journal.

Almost all of the mass shed over the last quarter century has come from West Antarctica, the study found. Sea levels are presently rising at roughly three mm per year overall.

Scientists believe a mantle plume exists underneath Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land explaining the well-documented instability and weakness of the ice sheet today.

The surveys also demonstrated that similar basal channel-driven transverse fractures occur elsewhere in Greenland and Antarctica.

Continuing high emissions could deliver massive sea level rise - but strong compliance with the Paris climate agreement, while unable to stop changes happening now, could help to control how much they worsen.

Or alternatively, he continued, Antarctica could drive faster changes, ones that "begin to exceed what we're going to be able to cope with".

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