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New Study Says Antarctic Ice Sheet May Be Melting Faster Than We Thought

New projections based on long-melted ice sheets reveal a melt rate exponentially faster than the previously estimated range. Here's what you need to know.

Antarctic ice sheet melting
Written by
Calin Van Paris
We've been talking about melting ice sheets
for decades
. And while the decrease of glacial ice in Greenland and Antarctica remains a steady reality, we may have underestimated the projected speed of said disappearance.
recent analysis
of a Norwegian ice shelf that melted between 15,000 and 19,000 years ago reveals a potential retreat rate that exceeds previous estimations by more than 10 times.

How Fast Is the Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting?

Antarctic ice sheet melting
Comparative research says that rates of ice sheet retreat could reach up to 2,000 feet—or, as The Washington Post
puts it
, more than the length of the Empire State Building—per day. The range begins at a more modest (but still concerning) 180 feet, with any and all melt contributing to rising sea levels.
The flattest portions of the sheet are the most susceptible to the higher estimates, as these pieces could be made more buoyant and unground from the sea floor,
resulting in
a "near-instantaneous" retreat.

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What Happens If the Ice Sheets Melts?

If the ice sheets melt, sea levels rise. Meltwater from Greenland, Antarctica, and the
6.4 trillion tons
of ice lost since the 1990s have already caused sea levels to rise by 0.7 inches.
IPCC projections
claim that the estimated increase in sea levels (made prior to the new retreat range) would result in coastal flooding that would affect up to 400 million people by the end of the century.
Melting ice sheets are a result of global warming—and though offsetting
climate change
will require combined, monumental effort, paying attention to our daily habits is a great (and empowering/sanity-saving) place to start.