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Home » Newspaper News

The collapse of West Antarctica's ice sheets cannot be stopped

May 13, 2014
James F Byrnes Freshman Academy



Two groups of scientists said on Monday, May 12th, that the ice sheets in west Antarctica will eventually collapse, but it will take centuries. Some of the same scientists said that the sea level could rise up to 12 feet when it is at its peak and that the melt is now irreversible.

The sea levels will not rise as suddenly as what “collapse” may imply. A statement by the University of Washington said that, “the fastest scenario is 200 years, and the longest is more than 1,000 years.”

According to the Washington Post, “warm, naturally occurring ocean water” that is flowing under the sheets is causing them to melt.

Eric Rignot, an Earth science professor at the University of California and also the lead author of one of the study groups funded by NASA, said, “We feel it is at the point that it is . . . a chain reaction that is unstoppable,” regardless of cooling and warming of the climate.

The one possible thing that could stop the abundance of water going into the ocean is “a large hill or mountains,” as Rignot puts it, but there is no such thing.

Scientists think that the melting cannot be stopped because the ice sheet in west Antarctica is attached to a “bed below sea level” according to CNN.

This means that warm ocean water can surround the base and warm the ice from the ground up.  When this happens, more glaciers break off, and the ice becomes thinner.

“The system [becomes] a chain reaction that is unstoppable; every process of retreat is feeding the next one,” Rignot said.

Antarctica’s ice caps melting is not that uncommon, but evidence suggests that the entire west Antarctica possibly could have melted 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, according to Sridhar Anandakrishnan, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University.

According to the Washington Post, “Sea-levels rising would be made worse because the land is sinking in the lower bay region because of ancient geological forces.”


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