West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse is under way

Photo of the Thwaites ice shelf taken during an October 2013 Operation IceBridge aerial survey.
Photo of the Thwaites ice shelf taken during an October 2013 Operation IceBridge aerial survey. (Photo: James Yungel / NASA)

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds enough water to raise global seas by several feet, is thinning. Ian Joughin and other University of Washington researchers used detailed topography maps and computer modeling to show that the collapse appears to have already begun. The Thwaites Glacier will likely disappear in a matter of centuries, researchers say, raising sea level by nearly 2 feet. That glacier also acts as a linchpin on the rest of the ice sheet, which contains enough ice to cause another 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters) of global sea level rise. The study is published May 16 in Science.

Read more in UW Today.