Research reveals a newly discovered basin under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet scientists say could make the area more vulnerable to collapse and sea levels more likely to rise. Are we at risk of drowning?
Media reports claim Antarctica is facing potential meltdown from global warming. "Antarctic ice shelf at tipping point," warns a headline from TG Daily. "Deep basin under West Antarctic Ice Sheet suggests greater risk of collapse," cautions Disaster News Network. And msnbc.com quips, "Vast Antarctic ice sheet 'in play' with global warming."
These headlines spin off new research that reveals a previously unknown basin under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) near the Weddell Sea. Using high-tech ice-penetrating radar, a team of scientists from the U.S. and U.K. discovered the sub-glacial basin they say is nearly the size of New Jersey and makes the ice sheet above it vulnerable to collapse. Their study results are published in the current edition of Nature Geoscience.
"If we were to invent a set of conditions conducive to retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, this would be it," said Don Blankenship, senior research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics. He co-authored the paper with experts from the British Antarctic Survey and the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Exeter and York.
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