Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapsing

12 05 2014

Huge Antarctic ice sheet collapsing
Predictions of sea level rise will need to be adjusted upward
The Associated Press
Posted: May 12, 2014 1:40 PM ET Last Updated: May 12, 2014 1:53 PM ET

This is a photo of the melting Thwaites ice shelf in Antarctica taken during an October 2013  aerial survey.

This is a photo of the melting Thwaites ice shelf in Antarctica taken during an October 2013 aerial survey. (James Yungel/NASA)

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Two new studies indicate that part of the huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a slow collapse in an unstoppable way. Alarmed scientists say that means even more sea level rise than they figured.

Glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica “have passed the point of no return,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in a statement Monday. Rignot is lead author of one of the two soon-to-be published papers on the melting ice shelf.

The collapse won’t happen fast. Scientists are talking hundreds of years, but over that time the melt that has started could eventually add 1.2 metres to 3.6 metres to current sea levels.

That’s faster than scientists had predicted.

Rignot’s study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters uses 40 years of observations. It sees that previous obstacles to major melt in the massive Thwaites glacier are now falling apart. The other study in the journal Science uses computer simulations and determines that early stage collapse of the ice shelf has begun.

Melting glaciers

Glaciers in West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea Embayment have “passed the point of no return” according to new research based on three different lines of evidence. (Eric Rignot/NASA)

 

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