West Antarctic Glacier Collapse ‘Unstoppable’
IRVINE, California - A rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in irreversible decline, with nothing to stop the entire glacial basin from disappearing into the sea, according to researchers at NASA and the University...
May 13, 2014 | Source: Environmental News Service | by
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IRVINE, California – A rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in irreversible decline, with nothing to stop the entire glacial basin from disappearing into the sea, according to researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine.
The study presents multiple lines of evidence, incorporating 40 years of observations that indicate the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica “have passed the point of no return,” warns glaciologist and lead author glaciologist Eric Rignot, a UC Irvine Earth system science professor who is also with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The new study has been accepted for publication in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters.”
“The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable. The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating parts of the glaciers,” said Dr. Rignot. “At this point, the end appears to be inevitable.”
These glaciers already contribute to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet.
They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by four feet (1.2 meters) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected.
Rignot said these findings will require an upward revision to current predictions of sea level rise.