But another decade after that, between 2012 and 2017, that number was 219 billion metric tons of ice lost per year. "This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities". Just one East Antarctic glacier, an enormous mass dubbed Totten, could cause a sea-level rise equal to what could be triggered by the entirety of the West Antarctic sheet, the Washington Post notes.
The Antarctic ice sheet is melting faster than ever - with global sea levels rising more than a half-millimeter every year since 2012, according to scientists.
Between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of the world's fresh water is frozen in the ice sheets of Antarctica, a continent roughly the size of the United States and Mexico combined.
Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate.
The ice sheets of Antarctica hold enough water to raise global sea level by 58 metres and knowing how much ice it is losing is key to understanding the impacts of climate change today and in the future, according to the assessment.
Altogether, across the continent, 34,000 square kilometers (13,000 square miles) of the ice shelf has been lost since the 1950s. However, ice retreat today is about more than 20 times that rate - more than 3,200 feet (1 kilometer) per year. If all of the ice in Antarctica melted, global sea levels would rise by more than 190 feet.
The West Antarctic ice sheet has lost almost three trillion tonnes of ice during this span - with a large chunk of the numbers coming in the last few years, according to research.
That might not sound like much, but what's particularly concerning is the way the ice loss has sharply accelerated over the course of the 25-year timeframe. "The future of Antarctica is tied to that of the rest of the planet and human society", said Steve Rintoul, of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research in Hobart, Tasmania, and one of the research team.
The study is the product of a large group of Antarctic experts who collectively reviewed 24 recent measurements of Antarctic ice loss, reconciling their differences to produce the most definitive figures yet on changes in Antarctica.
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"They're melting the ice at rates that far exceed anything that would change in the air, and these are forces that you can't reverse easily".
"Satellites have given us an wonderful, continent-wide picture of how Antarctica is changing", said Dr. Pippa Whitehouse, a member of the IMBIE team from Durham University, according to a University of Leeds press release.
However, the role of sea ice in buffering ice shelves and continental ice sheets is rarely factored into Antarctic ice-loss modelling, according to lead researcher Dr Rob Massom from the Australian Antarctic Institute.
"Thanks to the satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence", Professor Andrew Shepherd, the lead researcher of the study from the University of Leeds, said in a press release on Wednesday.
This in turn will drive big changes in the marine ecosystems of the Antarctic and for the first time permit invasive pests to colonise what was once a pristine, unspoiled landscape.
Looking closer, the rapid, recent changes are nearly entirely driven by the West Antarctic ice sheet, which scientists have long viewed as an Achilles' heel. NASA says ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, raising sea levels by 0.12 inch (3 millimeters), a faster rise than we've seen at any time in the past 25 years.
"Unfortunately, we appear to be on a pathway to substantial ice-sheet loss in the decades ahead, with longer-term consequences for enhanced sea-level rise; something that has been predicted in models for some time".
"This does not mean that at current atmospheric carbon dioxide levels Antarctica won't contribute to sea level rise".