The West Antarctica Ice Sheet has begun to disintegrate, two studies described here conclude. Temperatures in the region are rising more quickly than predicted and the topography of the sea bed below the ice, the presence of warm ocean currents, and the configuration of the ice sheet all point to collapse in the next centuries.
“It has passed the point of no return,” Eric Rignot of the University of California at Irvine, told reporters during a NASA teleconference on Monday. You can take a look at an overview of the factors and feedback loops in the West Antarctica Ice Sheet from NASA. The studies focus on the Amundsen Sea region of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which stores enough water to raise global sea levels by 4 feet (1.2 meters). There is enough water held in the ice of the whole West Antarctica Ice Sheet to raise global sea levels by 16 feet (5 meters).