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West Antarctic Ice Sheet Melt Cannot Be Stopped

May 13, 2014
Environmental Protection

penguinScientists from NASA have warned that the collapse of a major section of West Antarctica’s ice sheet is now inevitable. Using 40 years of satellite data and aircraft studies, researchers have found that warm ocean currents have caused a major chain reaction in the area, leading to glaciers melting much quicker than was previously thought.

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, released by the United Nations in April, estimated that sea levels could rise from one to three feet by the end of the century; these figures though didn’t take account of a major ice melt in West Antarctica as at the time few studies of the area had been undertaken.

As Eric Rignot, Professor of Earth System Science at University of California Irvine explained, the ice sheet has now reached a critical point: “There is no red button to stop this, the only question is how fast it is going to go,” he said. “You just can’t remove this glacier cleanly – you pull one part out, the rest will move into the void.” Antarctica is the largest mass of ice on the planet, containing an estimated 80% of the world’s fresh water. A 73% increase in ice melt has been seen since 1973.

You can read the abstract for the study here