The Earth’s Poles Have Lost Enough Ice to Cover Texas Four Times

Image: Antarctica, from NASA’s Operation IceBridge
Image: Antarctica, from NASA’s Operation IceBridge
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.

By Meredith Rutland Bauer | MOTHERBOARD

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.

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