According to results in a new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, it “appears that the rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea.”
As demonstrated in the video below, which features an animation of the melting of the massive ice sheet in Antarctica, the loss of ice will result in a massive amount of water returning to the ocean.
The new study was based on 40 years of scientific research and observations. Collectively, the study shows that the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica “have passed the point of no return,” according to glaciologist and lead author Eric Rignot, of UC Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
As it relates to the rising of sea levels, the glaciers in Antarctica release almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. Should they melt completely, global sea level could increase by as much as by 4 feet.
Because the rate of melting is faster than previously believed, Rignot indicated that current predictions of sea level rise will need to be revised.
“This sector will be a major contributor to sea level rise in the decades and centuries to come,” Rignot said. “A conservative estimate is it could take several centuries for all of the ice to flow into the sea.”
More comprehensive information on the study can be found online from NASA at: http://go.nasa.gov/1oIfSlO.