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Researchers: Catastrophic Collapse Of West Antarctic Ice Sheet Begins

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Two recent research papers suggest the massive West Antarctica ice sheet has begun melting, with catastrophic consequences for global coastlines. (Photo: VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Two recent research papers suggest the massive West Antarctica ice sheet has begun melting, with catastrophic consequences for global coastlines. (Photo: VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – The biggest glaciers in West Antarctica are melting rapidly and there is no way to stop them from collapsing into the ocean and melting, reports Space.com.

Glaciers are always moving from the mountains into the ocean, just at such a slow speed that humans usually can’t see the motion.

But recent observations have revealed what may be the beginning of an alarming collapse of the giant glaciers.

Ice spreads into the sea and settles to the bottom. But warmer water currents are melting the ice from the bottom up. Eventually the weight of the surface ice becomes too much and it breaks away as a massive iceberg.

Two scientific expeditions say this could be the beginning of frightening domino-effect that will cause the entire ice sheet to melt in a process that could take hundreds of years/

“These glaciers will keep retreating for decades and even centuries to come and we can’t stop it,” said lead study author Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “A large sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has passed the point of no return.”

The rapid ice retreat observed over the past 40 years suggests that the global rise in sea levels will be higher than the 3 feet that had been predicted by the year 2100.

If the entire ice sheet collapsed, sea levels would rise an estimated 11-13 feet.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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