Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly

Source: The New York Times

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A view from a NASA airplane of large icebergs that have broken from the calving side of Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica in November 2014. A disaster scenario of West Antarctic ice sheet disintegration could occur much sooner than previously thought, new research suggests. Credit Jim Yungel/NASA

For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization.

The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur.

Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner.

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