As if 2016 wasn’t rough enough, climate scientists recently discovered parts of Antarctica have now melted. The polar continent’s ice shelf had been spared from rising global temperatures until this year.
Ice shelves in Antarctica had generally remained steady, and even grew, despite the steady collapse of ice up north in the Arctic. But this year, researchers recorded ice receding at both the northern and southern poles, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.
In fact, the center recorded that the Arctic and Antarctic combined had shrunk 3.8 million square kilometers below the 1981-2010 average ice cover as of Dec. 4, which is enough ice to cover all of Texas four-and-a-half times.
Antarctica alone shrunk about 2 million square kilometers, according to data from the center, from its 1981-2010 average as of November—but the center’s research shows it could gain 0.4 percent of its mass back per decade from certain parts of the continent refreezing as usual. The Arctic shrunk about 2.3 million square kilometers during that time, and it’s on track to diminish 5 percent per decade.
All of this is bad news for land dwellers since increased ice melt means greater levels of sea level rise. With cities such as Miami, Florida, and Annapolis, Maryland, already dealing with sea flooding during high tides, other cities may soon have to set up sea walls and drainage systems.
A 2014 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists expect dozens of coastal cities, including Washington D.C., to be affected by seawater flooding by 2045.
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