Antarctica has lost three trillion tonnes of ice in the last quarter century, new research published in the journal Nature said today.
The ice sheet loss corresponds to a global sea level rise of around eight millimetres. This is a three-fold increase since 2012.
The paper shows warming oceans have driven a tripling of ice-loss in Western Antarctica between 1992 and 2017, from 53 billion tonnes a year to 159 billion tonnes a year.
International researchers drew on satellite images for their analysis.
Associate Professor Nick Golledge from the Antarctic Research Centre said the results are "shocking".
"It's pretty startling stuff. As a scientist, whenever you see a system accelerating, it's a sign that the brakes have come off," Mr Golledge said.
"We're losing control a bit. And that certainly tends to ring to alarm bells."
He said one major concern for glaciologists is Runaway Retreat, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
"Potentially, people have argued this is the beginning on that. If we're looking at that, we'd be looking at many metres of sea level rise that could play out over the next few hundred years."
Professor Christina Hulbe, from the University of Otago, said the report highlights the need to act urgently.
"One of the most important parts of this is it's not too late to avoid the worst climate change can hold in store," Ms Hulbe said.
We need to get busy. We need to get busy as communities to work out how to confront the challenges."