The ice cap in West Antarctica is an average of 2,100 meters thick and contains about 70% of the world’s fresh water…and it’s going to melt.
A recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that, based on a study of 21 years of data, the ice sheet is losing a volume of ice equivalent to Mount Everest every two years. In other words, the rate of melt has tripled in the last ten years.
The study, conducted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the University of California-Irvine, looked at the Amudsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica, the least stable region in the area—what the Jet Propulsion Lab calls the “singly largest threat of rapid sea level rise.”
According to the resulting paper, the ice cap loses an average of 91.5 billion tons of ice a year, a major increase from the 6.7 billion ton rate in 1992.
This is no ordinary ice. The Amudsen Sea region contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by four feet. If it were to disappear entirely, it would raise global levels a total of 16 feet.
And disappear is just what it’s likely to do, no matter what measures are put in place to slow it. According to a research team from the University of Washington, as the ice continues to melt due to contact from the warm water erosion below, there is no way to stop it. Even if the amount of warm water were to be reduced in some way, it would be “too little, too late to stabilize the ice sheet,” said Ian Joughin, the engineer who led the UWA team, to The New York Times.
“There’s no stabilization mechanism,” he concluded.