West Antarctic Glaciers on Unstoppable Path to Complete Meltdown Warn Scientists

Posted on May 12, 2014

A new study, led by glaciologist Eric Rignot at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, suggests that the eventual loss of a major section of West Antarctica's ice sheet is unstoppable. The scientists say a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is in an irreversible state of decline and nothing will stop the glaciers in the region from melting into the sea. The study incorporates 40 years of observations. The Thwaites Glacier is pictured above.

The scientists also say these glaciers contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters). They are melting faster than most scientists had expected. Reuters reports that these new findings mean the scenarios created by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for sea level rise are too low. The IPCC is currently predicting sea levels will rise between 26 and 82 centimeters by the late 21st century.

Rignot says in a statement, "This sector will be a major contributor to sea level rise in the decades and centuries to come. A conservative estimate is it could take several centuries for all of the ice to flow into the sea."

Rignot explains why he and other glaciologists think we have passed the point of no return with these glaciers that are melting into the Amundsen Sea in this NASA JPL video. Take a look:

The new research paper will be published here in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

More from Science Space & Robots