Quirks & Quarks

West Antarctic Ice Slipping Away

Erosion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have passed the point of no return....

Erosion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have passed the point of no return.

Thanks to climate change, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have passed a critical tipping point and will inevitably collapse, in perhaps as little as hundreds of years.  According to new research by two groups, one led by Dr. Ian Joughin, a glaciologist in the Polar Science Center of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, warm deep-sea water, driven by shifting climate patterns around Antarctica, has undermined two of the glaciers that make up the ice sheet. The glaciers have begun a slow, and likely irreversible collapse that will eventually lead to loss of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The ice sheet makes up nearly 10% of the world's ice, and if - or when - it collapses and melts into the sea, will raise global sea level by more than three meters.

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