Thanks to the satellites that our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea-level contribution with confidence.
That might not sound like much, but what's particularly concerning is the way the ice loss has sharply accelerated over the course of the 25-year timeframe. "If this kind of thing happens more in the future we have to be aware of that".
The new findings are the result of the most complete satellite survey of Antarctic ice sheet change to date, involving 84 scientists from 44 global organizations (including NASA and the European Space Agency).
Covering twice the area of the continental United States, Antarctica is blanketed by enough ice pack to lift global oceans by almost 60 metres (210 feet).
That said, it is worth noting the researchers have cautioned the processes that helped the ice sheet recover back in the day might not work in the present-day scenario of rapid melting due to human activity.
Twila Moon, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who wasn't part of the studies, said "ice-speaking, the situation is dire". Meanwhile, in the Antarctic Peninsula, the annual rate of ice loss increased from around 7 billion tons from 1992 to 2012 to 36 billion tons from 2012 to 2017, largely due to collapsing ice shelves.
The team, which included researchers from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) in a project led by University of Waterloo Professor Christine Dow, found that warm ocean water flowing in channels beneath Antarctic ice shelves is thinning the ice from below so much that the ice in the channels is cracking.
A remote survey discovered 91 volcanoes ranging in height from 100m to 3,850m in a massive region known as the West Antarctic Rift System. You can see ice loss in that area over time in the video above.
More than 70% of the recent melt is in West Antarctica.
Shepherd said: "We have long suspected that changes in Earth's climate will affect the polar ice sheets".
"The satellite measurements tell us that the ice sheet is much more dynamic than we used to think", he said.
Scientists believe a mantle plume exists underneath Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land explaining the well-documented instability and weakness of the ice sheet today.
To arrive at their conclusions, researchers with the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-Comparison Exercise (IMBIE) analyzed two dozen independent studies of ice sheet mass changes conducted between 1992 and 2017, including results from three unrelated measurement methods.
Lifting the ban could result in severe damage to the Antarctic environment, while the loss of land ice could result in unsustainable levels of tourism and the spread of unwanted invasive species.
The research team measured isotopes produced by the interaction between cosmic rays and the nucleus of an atom, called cosmogenic nuclides, in glacial sediment from Antarctic's largest ice shelf. Some 80 percent of that rise would come from the melted Antarctic ice sheet.
And if the world's economies go on burning the fossil fuels that have driven rising levels of greenhouse gases, then by 2070 global sea levels will rise even faster - by a metre, with one fourth of that from Antarctic meltwater - and ever more ice will be lost from the Southern Ocean.
"The good news is that measures to reduce emissions (eg. adoption of renewable energy) are also growing exponentially".
The government wants an action plan in place to tackle climate change after a new report details its impact on health.
Shepherd says they've seen the most dramatic effects in West Antarctica, where the ice sheet rests on the sea bed. "This study shows that we're actually losing more mass along the edges of the ice sheet, where the ice sheet is making contact with the ocean, and that the warming oceans are melting the ice", Koppes said.
"We're beginning to understand how the retreat of Antarctica's sensitive glaciers probably begins in a warming climate", said Donald D. Blankenship, a UTIG senior research scientist and co-author of the new study.