Is Antarctica gaining ice?

By Alex Warr, Julia Brown, and Chris McNulty


Antarctica is losing Ice every day. The amount of ice that is being lost is always varying, but overall, ice sheets are losing mass. West Antarctica went from “53 +/- 29 gigatons to 159 +/- 26 gigatons per year”. The Antarctic Peninsula is also losing mass going from “7 +/- 13 gigatons to 33 +/- 16”.  East Antarctica is staying relatively the same. 

Origin and Prevalence 

Is Antarctica gaining ice? This is a question that many people around the globe are asking. This is an important question because it affects climate change. People are asking this question because of global warming and are wondering how it affects the Earth. This is an important question to ask because it has been contradicted before.  Some articles say that Antarctica is “losing ice twice as fast as anyone thought”. While other articles say that it “gains in snowfall in East Antarctica are more than enough to offset the losses from melting glaciers on the West side of the continent”. It is important for people to ask questions like this because they need to know more about the topic and how global warming is affecting other parts of the world. This is a controversial question because some people do not believe that climate change and global warming is a real thing. Even though it may not seem important, or urgent, everyone contributes to global warming and the loss of ice in Antarctica.  

Issues and Analysis  

Antarctica is losing ice. “The Antarctic ice sheet gathered mass at the rate of 112 billion tons of ice every year from 1992 to 2001, they said, which slowed to 82 billion tons of ice gain per year between 2003 and 2008”.  Antarctica is not gaining as much ice as it used to due to global warming.  

West Antarctica is progressively losing the most amount of ice. Glaciers on the west side have “since 1979 have doubled their mass loss to 11 Gt/y in 2017”, draining into the Bellingshausen Sea. The Abbot Ice Shelf is an ice shelf on the west side of Antarctica ranging 250 miles long and 40 miles wide. The ice shelf has “doubled its mass loss from 2 to 4 Gt/y with glacier speed-up, consistent with reports of retreating grounding line”. Glacier speed-up is the measure of how fast a glacier is moving towards the edge of the sheet. The faster the glacier is moving; the more ice mass is lost. The Pine Island Glacier is the fastest melting glacier in Antarctica. It “remains the largest loss (58 8 Gt/y) in Antarctica”. 

“The frozen mountains and icy plains of Antarctica hold enough water to raise global sea levels nearly 200 feet”. Eventually, the Earth will become warm enough to melt all or most of Antarctica. If the sea level where to rise that much, it would create many problems around the world. When the ice melts, it goes into a hollow area in the ice, forming blue lakes. These lakes are dark blue colored and absorb more of the sun’s energy.  

Sea levels continue to rise at a rate of “about one-eighth of an inch per year”. Higher sea levels will affect populated coasts and wildlife. It has been estimated that “meltwater from Antarctica could raise sea levels by between 2.2 to 5.5 inches by 2100”. This isn’t that bad of an effect but still shows that Antarctica is melting. The rise in sea levels is another piece of information to show that Antartica is losing ice.  

As sea levels continue to rise and if they keep going at a rate that there going it can get pretty bad. Here are the two main reasons or contributors to the sea levels rising. The first is thermal expansion and its cause by expansion of the ocean (when water is warm it will expand). The second reason is the melting of land-based ice for example glaciers and ice sheet. With all this happening the ocean is absorbing up to 90 percent of the increase atmospheric heat that come from carbon emissions associated with human activity.