Ice is melting faster in Greenland and Antarctica and could lead to sea levels rising higher than anticipated this century, according to documents leaked from the United Nations.
In the 10 years ending 2011, Greenland’s ice added to sea levels six times more than it did in the previous decade, revealed a draft of a comprehensive UN study on climate change. Meanwhile, Antarctica added five times as much during the same period, leading the UN to increase its forecast of the quantity of water the two ice sheets are expected to add to the world’s oceans by 2100.
US National Aeronautics and Space Administration research scientist Walt Meier said that changes in the world’s coldest regions are a strong indicator that the planet is warming.
He described it as an early warning sign, explaining that if you think of the US or the UK warming by a couple of degrees it’s not so noticeable, but when it happens in areas covered in ice and snow it can have a massive impact. He pointed out that with sea ice a change from minus 1 to plus 1 is a huge difference, like going from skating on ice to swimming in water.
Antarctica and Greenland have enough ice to lead to global sea levels rising by 66 metres, although it would be thousands of years before that could happen.
The report said that Greenland’s likely contribution to rising sea levels rose from an average of 0.09 millimetres a year between 1992 and 2001 to 0.59 millimetres between 2002 and 2011. Meanwhile, Antarctica’s likely contribution went up from 0.08 millimetres to 0.4 millimetres during the same period.