Is Antarctica gaining land ice?

Thursday, April 25, 2024
By Sue Bin Park

While Antarctic sea ice varies seasonally, the continent's land ice has continued to melt at an increasing pace.

Sea ice forms during the Antarctic winter and retreats during the warmer months. Such freeze-thaw cycles have no impact on sea levels since they happen within the ocean. However, Antarctic land ice has seen a net decrease, resulting in a significant increase in fresh water flowing into the sea. That does affect global sea levels.

The behavior of Antarctic land ice varies from region to region. In particular, the West Antarctic Peninsula has seen drastic ice retreat. On the other hand, East Antarctica's land ice has remained relatively stable to date. But if global warming crosses a specific threshold, serious loss is expected to occur. The planet has already moved a third of the way towards that threshold and will pass it within a century, if fossil fuel burning continues unabated.

This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
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