Large glaciers in West Antarctica are melting at a faster pace than scientists previously estimated according to the latest findings from a new study released on Monday.
The study undertaken by NASA and researchers from the University of California- Irvine compiled 40 years of observations, relying on some satellite radar measurements taken from 1992 to 2011.
Six large glaciers in the Amundsen Sea region of the Antarctic “have passed the point of no return” said Eric Rignot, a UC Irvine professor who is also working with NASA on the project.
Rignot believes that an increase in ocean heat was responsible for melting the massive glacier ice with the vast majority of glacial melting happening on the underside of their sections.
“The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable” and was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating parts of the glaciers.
Rignot believes that human produced greenhouse gasses have contributed to global warming.
Scientists like Rignot have theorized that human produced greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere impact wind patterns around Antarctica and push warmer ocean water to the frozen continent.
The melting glaciers are already causing the sea level to rise and hold enough ice to increase the global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) in the decades and centuries to come.
They are now melting at a faster pace than most previous estimates from scientists.
Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions may help to slow the Antarctic glacier thawing that has captured the attention of scientists worldwide.
But the findings from the recent study have also led to criticism from naysayers on the other spectrum such as conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh who downplayed the study and ranted instead about “propagandized millennials”, claiming they are the “most indoctrinated generation in our country’s history.”
Many Americans led by conservative groups and the fossil fuel industry are highly suspicious of climate research that is used to show that climate change is man-made and insist that its unfair to blame humans for natural changes to the climate.
According to research from Pew Research, Americans are relatively unconcerned about global climate change when measured against citizens from other nations.
Only four-in-ten surveyed Americans said that climate change poses a major threat to their nation which ranks among the bottom of the list compared to citizens from other countries.
On May 6th the Obama administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment in Washington and welcomed national meteorologists and scientists to the White House in an effort to help understand the key reasons behind climate change.
The climate assessment is the culmination of a three year study by a team of over 300 climate scientists and experts.
The findings from the assessment indicated that the global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities.
According to the assessment, the earth is getting warmer as “many more high temperature records are being broken as compared to low temperature records over the past three to four decades – another indicator of a warming climate.”
“The number of record low monthly temperatures has declined to the lowest levels since 1911, while the number of record high monthly temperatures has increased to the highest level since the 1930s” according to the assessment.
The findings also showed that the majority of the warming to the earth during the past 50 years can only be explained by the effects of human influences, such as the emissions from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and from deforestation.
Although humans have caused a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the future choices that humans make toward the environment could impact future climate change.
“Global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat trapping gases emitted globally and how sensitive the earth’s climate is to those emissions” the assessment states.
* The Atlantic Cities has some good new information (good maps as well) that show A Map of History’s Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluters.