The rapid structural breakdown of some important parts of the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica is possible, has happened in the distant past, and some "startling changes" on the margin of these ice masses has been observed in recent years – raising disturbing concerns about sea level rise.
In a new report to be released Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Oregon State University and four other institutions in the U.S. and Europe outline dynamic mechanisms of glacial change that appear to be under way, could significantly speed up the melting of major ice sheets, and have not been considered in current projections for sea level rise.
A possibility, scientists say, is that the melting and collapse of floating ice shelves near the coasts of Greenland and Antarctica will continue and in the process destabilize the ice sheets behind them. This could cause a much more rapid flow of ice to the sea and lead to melting events that transcend those now anticipated due to global warming. Based on this, the researchers say that current projections of sea level rise should be considered a minimum to expect, and the levels could be much higher and happen more quickly.
Peter Clark | EurekAlert!
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