Antarctica’s ice is “growing, not shrinking?”

Gleeful climate change deniers are having a field day because a new NASA study reveals that Antarctica’s ice is “growing, not shrinking.” Hooray! If the ice isn’t melting, our water levels won’t rise, and we don’t have to worry about climate change any more. Al Gore and his inconvenient truths can go suck it

Alas, those right-wing climate change deniers aren’t exactly the kind of people who read the fine print. Yes, NASA’s report looks reassuring at first glance. It even seems to jauntily throw down the gauntlet before the IPCC and their scary old 2013 report about Antarctica’s ice melting at an alarming rate.

A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers. […] The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice.

Unfortunately for the climate change deniers what the Good News Fairy giveth, she just as easily taketh away. Although Antarctica’s still gaining ice, it’s at a much lower rate than 20 years ago.

According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008

Also, IPCC’s still right about our oceans’ water level rising — Even if they don’t know where that melting ice water’s coming from. Make no mistake, our water levels are still rising. Jay Zwally, the study’s lead author and a glaciologist with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. explains:

“The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away. But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.

By the way, a net gain in the overall mass of Antarctica’s ice would hardly mean everything’s hunky dory in the way-down-under Down Under. Carolyn Gramling from Science explains how West Antarctica’s Ice Sheet along the Admundsen Sea is near collapse and could cause a terrifying chain reaction.

It won’t take much to cause the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse—and once it starts, it won’t stop. In the last year, a slew of papers has highlighted the vulnerability of the ice sheet covering the western half of the continent, suggesting that its downfall is inevitable—and probably already underway.

She also summarizes some alarming findings from a report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS):

What they found was that local destabilization of the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica ultimately causes the entire ice sheet to fall into the ocean over several centuries to several thousands of years, gradually adding 3 meters to global sea levels. [The] model shows that “there’s no holding back,” Levermann says: Just a few decades of melting leads to “thousands of years of ice motion.” More than 150 million people globally live within just 1 meter of the sea; in the United States, a sea level rise of 3 meters would inundate many of the East Coast’s largest cities, including New York and Miami.

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