The great melt: New evidence in Antarctica predicts a sea change

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Working independently, two teams of climate scientists have determined that the West Antarctica ice sheet is in a state of unstoppable retreat. As a result of the mega-melt, sea levels could rise precipitously in the next century and pose a threat to many of the world’s populated coastal cities.

In the United States, New York, Boston, New Orleans and Miami are particularly vulnerable if the scientists are correct. Both groups agree that the rise in sea level will be relatively slow for the rest of this century, but that the rate will accelerate in the next century and could send waters up by 10 or more feet.

The scientists said global warming caused by human activity that releases greenhouse gases was one of several factors behind the melting, yet climate change deniers are heaping the same derision on these findings as on last week’s National Climate Assessment. What will it take to get their attention?

The West Antarctica glaciers already have retreated enough to trigger instability in neighboring ice sheets.

One of the scientific teams has documented the accelerating retreat of six glaciers now draining into the Amundsen Sea. That melt alone is expected to raise sea levels by four feet.

Although the West Antarctica ice sheet predates modern humans, children born today will be around to see its demise. Maybe the children of today’s climate change skeptics will be believers, too.

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