West Antarctic Ice Sheet Starts Slow Collapse

WASHINGTON (May 12, 2014) Two new studies indicate that part of the huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a slow, unstoppable collapse and alarmed scientists say that means even more sea level rise than they expected.

It won't happen fast, however.

The scientists are talking in terms of hundreds of years, but over that time the melt that has started could eventually add 4 to 12 feet to current sea levels, which is faster than scientists had predicted.

A NASA study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters uses 40 years of observations to document the slow collapse of what had been an obstacle to major melt in the Thwaites glacier, about the size of New Mexico and Arizona combined.

The other study in the journal Science used computer simulations and determines that early stage collapse has begun.

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