Scientists monitoring ice loss in Antarctica have chilling news: The melting rate has accelerated alarmingly and the ice sheet is now shedding more than 200 billion tons a year, according to a study involving 88 scientists published in the journal Nature. The researchers say the rate of ice loss has tripled over the last decade and the melting ice sheets are now pushing up sea levels around the world by around a half-millimeter every year, reports the BBC. Antarctica was losing around 49 billion tons of ice a year in the mid-1990s, which went up to an average 219 billion tons a year between 2012 and 2017, the study found. The researchers, who used satellite data going back more than 25 years, say most of the melting ice comes from the West Antarctic sheet, parts of which are in a "state of collapse"—and modest ice growth in the East Antarctic is nowhere near enough to offset it.
"The increasing mass loss that they’re finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that’s changing most rapidly," University of Waterloo glaciologist Christine Dow tells the Washington Post. "And it’s the area that we’re most worried about, because it’s below sea level." Antarctica has lost a total of around 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992 and will be contributing more and more to sea level rise if the current trend continues, warn researchers, who say climate change is the only plausible explanation for the ice loss. "I think we should be worried. That doesn't mean we should be desperate," says study co-author Isabella Velicogna of the University of California Irvine, per the AP. "Things are happening. They are happening faster than we expected." (Read more Antarctica stories.)