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The Melting Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Heading Towards Irreversible Collapse

Computer models suggest that the melting West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is melting at a rapidly accelerating rate. A new computer simulation shows that at current melting rates, the ice sheet will hit a critical point in about 60 years, and could result in a sea level rise of as much as 10 feet over the next several centuries.

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The results of this latest simulation, run by a pair of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, just appeared in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Illustration for article titled The Melting Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Heading Towards Irreversible Collapse
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The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (Credit: NASA)

Over the past decade, scientists have carefully watched the Amundsen Sea sector. This region of West Antarctica is currently suffering tremendous losses in ice volume, and its ongoing collapse is triggering downstream effects elsewhere on the continent. A recent NASA study suggests that the Antarctic ice sheet is adding more ice than it’s losing, but this won’t likely be the case for much longer.

To get a sense of where this region is headed in the long-term, Johannes Feldmann and Anders Levermann ran their simulation to project the topographical conditions hundreds, and even thousands, of years from now —further in the future than any previous study.

The ultimate purpose was to determine whether or not the current Amundsen instability could lead to the entire ice sheet collapsing into the sea. The simulations suggest that this is in fact the case.

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Illustration for article titled The Melting Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Heading Towards Irreversible Collapse

The models show that 60 more years of meltage at the current rate—a very reasonable estimate—will push the WAIS past a critical point-of-no-return. Beyond this threshold, a complete, long-term disintegration is predicted to occur. Feldmann and Levermann worry that the WAIS has already become critically unstable, and that this region has already passed the threshold point.

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The study also predicts that, over the course of the next several centuries or millennia, the oceans will rise by as much as 10 feet (3 meters).

“Our results show that if the Amundsen Sea sector is destabilized, then the entire marine ice sheet will discharge into the ocean, causing a global sea-level rise of about 3 m,” conclude the authors in the study. “We thus might be witnessing the beginning of a period of self-sustained ice discharge from West Antarctica that requires long-term global adaptation of coastal protection.”

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To get a sense of what some major city centers around the world would look like after a 10-foot rise in sea levels, go here and here.

Read the entire study at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet after local destabilization of the Amundsen Basin”.

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Email the author at george@gizmodo.com and follow him at @dvorsky. Top image by J Feldmann & A. Levermann, 2015/PNAS

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DISCUSSION

So, we shouldn’t believe NASA when they say that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is gaining ice volume? http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddar…

Or how about the National Sea Ice organization where it said we are very close to the record ever Ice Coverage in Antarctica from last year?

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicene…

When you going to realize that what is the normal cycle of the environment is no need to scream the sky is falling and try to create crises when none exist?

I am sure dozens of you are going to freak out about how i am ignoring the facts, and I must watch Fox News every minute of the day (I have never watched Fox for the record) or that I am obviously a neanderthal with a christian school education (I am a mechanical engineer with my own business). The facts are these “Scientists” are lying to us every day. They make up data, fudge data, create flawed models that never show what is really going to happen. They tell us that we only have 10 years until the sea levels rise and consume the coastal cities for the last 30 years. It is all crap.

I don’t believe there is anyone on this planet that can for sure even IDENTIFY all the factors that go into the things that make up our climate. There are literally an infinite number of variables that go into it. Chaos Theory is the best you can get to explain what happens with global climate. The fact that almost every study and climate model ignores what is happening with the sun automatically negates anything they claim. The most important thing when it comes to what is happening with our climate is the Sun. Yet it is always ignored.

So, you guys can keep claiming that the world is going to end and that the only solution is to destroy the economy of the planet so we can all go back to living in caves and all be Vegan. That will solve all of our problems.