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News Picks : Antarctic glaciers appear destined to collapse

By: Physics Today
13 May 2014
New Scientist: Two independent studies of the grounding points—those spots where a glacier sits over water and not on rock—suggest that several Antarctic glaciers are so unbalanced that they cannot be prevented from falling into the ocean and ultimately disappearing. Ian Joughin of the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues used radar to map the movement of the grounding point of the Thwaites glacier. Eric Rignot of the University of California at Irvine and his colleagues similarly mapped the Thwaites, Pine Island, and Smith–Kohler glaciers. The Thwaites glacier in particular is partly responsible for holding the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in place. Both studies suggest that the glaciers are likely to fall apart sometime between 200 and 1000 years from now and that there is no way to prevent that from happening. A collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would cause a rise in sea levels of up to 10 m.

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