A new study is reporting that the enormous Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun a slow yet irreversible melting and collapsing process.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is huge and scientists have worried about its melting since the 1970s. Scientists are now warning that the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is inevitable. This melting could translate to sea levels rising from 4-12 feet. This is a more rapid sea level rise than previously forecasted.
Did global warming cause this ice sheet to melt? The study says yes, but in a indirect way. According to the study, human caused global warming has changed wind patterns which has caused warm ocean water to contact the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from beneath.
“It’s what’s called a marine ice sheet, which means most of it is on the ocean floor instead of on land above sea level.” – Ian Joughin, glaciologist at the University of Washington in Seattle
The loss of this ice could:
“create a vacuum of ice to which the rest of the ice sheet would … flow into and largely destabilize much of the rest of the ice sheet. And that has enough ice to raise sea level by about 10 feet.” – Ian Joughin
The study reporting these findings was published in the Geophysical Research Letters and was co-authored by Eric Rignot, a University of California researcher. Rignot looked at 40 years of data collected from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet gathered by air, by space, and by foot.
“The system is sort of a chain reaction that is unstoppable.” Eric Rignot
“It’s not like a building collapse that would occur over seconds; it’s a collapse that’s going to occur over centuries.” – Eric Rignot
It’s going to take hundreds of years for this ice to melt, but melt it will.
“Our worst-case scenario had the rapid onset of the collapse occurring in just over a couple hundred years.” – Ian Joughin