A new study, published in the journal Nature, shows that Antarctica, like the rest of the world, is warming up. The authors of the study fear that West Antarctica may have reached a "tipping point" which will melt most of the ice. If all of West Antarctica was to melt away it would raise global sea levels of up to seven metres with devastating consequences around the world.
Eric Steig, of the University of Washington, one of the authors of the study, said:
"The thing you hear all the time is that Antarctica is cooling and thatâ€™s not the case. If anything itâ€™s the reverse, but itâ€™s more complex than that.
"Antarctica isnâ€™t warming at the same rate everywhere, and while some areas have been cooling for a long time the evidence shows the continent as a whole is getting warmer."
Professor Barry Brook, of the University of Adelaide, said after seeing the study that together with the melting of Greenlands ice sheet global sea levels would rise 14 metres:
"This new analysis of the warming trend over the other large vulnerable ice sheet, West Antarctica, suggests it is also precariously balanced.
"A complete melting of both of these ice sheets would cause about 14 metres of sea level rise, but even losing a fraction of both would cause a few metres this century, with disastrous consequences. I worry, with the observed polar warming over the last few decades and more in the pipeline due to lags in the climate system, that their large-scale melt is now a fait accompli."
The study notes that man-made climate change is to be blamed for warming up Antarctica:
"This warming trend is difficult to explain without the radioactive forcing associated with increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations."
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