The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting three times faster than 30 years ago, according to research published in the journal Earth Science System Data. The worst melt was in 2019, when the ice sheets lost a combined 675 billion tons, CNN writes.
"This is a huge amount of ice," study lead author Inès Otosaka told CNN. "This is very worrying, of course, because 40 percent of the global population lives in coastal areas." The Greenland sheet has particularly suffered, with study co-author Ruth Mottram calling the figures "disastrous," per The Associated Press.
But Antarctica's melt is likely to have more devastating impacts around the world, AP says. "While mass loss from Greenland is outpacing that from Antarctica, there are troublesome wild cards in the south, notably behavior of the Thwaites glacier," also known as the Doomsday Glacier, Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Center, told AP. Most of the melt in Antarctica is coming from this glacier and is predicted to cause sea levels to rise globally including as far north as Texas, per NPR.
"We have what we call some low-probability but high-impact mechanisms that could be triggered if we exceed a certain level of warming," Otosaka told CNN. Rising temperatures due to climate change are responsible for the melting and will lead to a number of irreversible ecological consequences. Each half-degree of temperature rise also greatly exacerbates the issue.
"This is a devastating trajectory," Twila Moon of the National Snow and Ice Center told AP. "These rates of ice loss are unprecedented during modern civilization."