19 May 2014

Going ... going ... gone ... Western Antarctic ice sheet slips into the sea

It seems the planet is running out of ice. The latest news on that front came with two reports last week that said the Western Antarctic ice sheet is collapsing. The loss of the entire ice sheet could eventually cause a sea level rise of up to 4 metres.

Studies by NASA and the University of Washington both concluded that the melting of the ice sheet, driven by climate change, has begun and cannot be halted, even with drastic action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The collapse is already causing much faster sea level rise than scientists had anticipated and will be far greater than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this year. Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, observed, “This system, whether Greenland or Antarctica, is changing on a faster time scale than we anticipated. We are discovering that every day.”

But not to worry. The complete collapse of the sheet will take centuries, lots of time to rebuild our coastal cities and take in millions of refugees from Bangladesh and other low-lying countries. Not a bad idea to get started now though.

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