Melting Antarctic ice will raise global sea level


Evan Krask - Editor-at-Large

In May, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with two different teams of scientists, released a new study confirming that the Antarctic ice sheet is rapidly melting and will lead to rising sea levels.  The study also included data, which indicated that the melting is irreversible.  The melting is caused by warm water currents in the western part of the ice sheet, which are expected to spread across the entirety of the continent.

According to NASA, if the western part of the ice sheet liquefies, then global sea levels will rise by at least four feet.  Although the west Antarctic ice could take a century to melt completely, the rising sea levels will force millions of people living in coastal areas around the world to relocate.  The melting of the western ice sheet could eventually destabilize the rest of the ice, raising the global sea level by 16 feet.

“A large sector of the west Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, to CNN reporters.  “It has passed the point of no return.”

This new study is based on 40 years of research on the Amundsen Sea area of west Antarctica, and the scientists’ observations state that the melting of the ice cannot be reversed due to the topography of the land under the glaciers.  If there were a hill or a mountain in the topography, there would be a possibility to slow or stop the process.  However, the glacier is mostly underwater, which accelerates the melting process.

According to, the United Nations’ most recent climate report estimated an increase of sea level by one foot to three feet by 2100.  This report does not include the level increase caused by the melting of west Antarctica because there was not enough information at the time to make an accurate prediction.  With this recent discovery, the sea level will most likely rise closer to the United Nation’s prediction of three feet.

Although scientists say there is no possibility of stopping the melting, there is a large time frame before the entire continent liquefies.  Scientists believe that there will be about 800 years until the sea level rises 16 feet globally.  NASA and its team of researchers say that should be more than enough time for future scientists to come up with a solution to stop the melting.