Updated 04:53 AM EDT, Thu, Oct 28, 2021

Antarctic Ice Shelves Collapsing Sooner Than Thought? What Happens Next?

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Antarctica, the frozen continent found at the earth's bottom, holds enough ice to raise sea levels by more than 200 feet, Mashable wrote in a recent article. This event, however, is expected to happen in "thousands of years."

Most forecasts today have a consensus estimate of around 1 meter (3.3 feet) in terms of sea level rise before the end of this century. But in a recent turn of events, as these enormous ice shelves are constantly subjected to warm air and ocean temperatures, the vulnerability of Antarctica's ice were exposed.

A recent study conducted by NASA revealed that a huge chunk of what remains of Antarctica's Larsen B Ice is dramatically weakening, and could cause the entire shelf to collapse entirely by the end of 2020, according to a report from CNN.

The recent findings also show that the ice shelf has become more fragmented as it flows faster, creating big cracks. "These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating," says Ala Khazendar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release.

"Although it's fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it's bad news for our planet," he added.

According to the Washington Post, although, the collapse of these ice shelves does not contribute to the increase in global sea level directly, it could, however, result to accelerating the flow towards the ocean of the glaciers behind them. These ice detaching itself from a land mass, and occupying the water, is what leads to sea level rise.

As told by Mashable, the fate of Antarctic floating ice shelves are important for coastal residents from Miami to Hong Kong, due to the fact that they hold back huge volumes of inland, land-based ice. The sea level rise due to global warming, coupled with the storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes, could cost the economy of the U.S. by a total of $1 trillion by 2100 according to one study last year.

Larsen B, existing for more than 10,000 years, has an area of 4,445 square miles when it was measured back in January 1995. The major disintegration in February 2002 sliced it off to 2,573 square miles; and just a month later, it was down to 1,337 square miles.

Currently, Larsen B is only around 618 square miles, which is less than half the size of Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, according to CNN.

What do you think about the effects of disintegrating Antarctic ice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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