Globally, as it stands, sea levels are rising at about 8mm a year due to melting ice and climate change, and while that does not seem like much, the implications for future generations could be huge. Between 1993 and 2014, sea levels rose by 66mm (2.3 inches) – or roughly 3mm per year.
If it continues at the current rate, or gets faster, it could mean coastal cities such as New York could be submerged by the end of the century.
Global warming is contributing to a loss of ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic circles and researchers believe Greenland could be one of the worst affected.
The ice covering Greenland is up to three kilometres thick in certain places, covering an area seven times the amount of the UK.
If all of this ice were to melt, it would cause sea levels to rise by a staggering seven metres, which could have major implications for the UK.
NASA has now revealed that the ice is melting at an accelerating rate in what could be a devastating snowball effect.
NASA said: “A small glacier in the Arctic region of Norwegian archipelago Svalbard, as photographed by NASA’s Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX). This is one of the seven regions where ice loss is accelerating, causing the depletion of freshwater resources.
“Seven of the regions that dominate global ice mass losses are melting at an accelerated rate, a new study shows, and the quickened melt rate is depleting freshwater resources that millions of people depend on.
“The impact of melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica on the world’s oceans is well documented.
“But the largest contributors to sea level rise in the 20th century were melting ice caps and glaciers located in seven other regions: Alaska, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the Southern Andes, High Mountain Asia, the Russian Arctic, Iceland and the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard. The five Arctic regions accounted for the greatest share of ice loss.”
The planet is continuing to warm, with scientists stating the global temperature has risen by roughly 0.15-0.20C per decade.
This has led to the visible loss of ice in the polar caps but frozen water is also melting beneath the surface, scientists have warned.
Permafrost is a permanently frozen layer beneath the surface, which affects 18 million square kilometres in the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere.
The layer of ice contains rocks, soil, sand and stores the remains of plants and microbes which have been stored in the permafrost for millions of years.
However, with this means the carbon dioxide (CO2) from dead plants and microbes has also become trapped in Earth’s natural freezer – and with permafrost beginning to melt at an alarming rate, this CO2 will eventually be released into the atmosphere.
Current estimates suggest there is up to 1.5 trillion metric tons of carbon stored in permafrost.
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