East Antarctica Ice Sheet Melting Could Mean Ocean Levels Rising By 11-Feet, NASA Study States

A new NASA study suggests the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica is melting at a faster pace that scientists already believed.

The worrisome conclusions were published on the journal Nature Geoscience on March 16 and states that if the Totten Glacier were to completely collapse, the sea levels could rise by 11 feet. However, the study also stresses the fact that the melting of this giant ice piece could take centuries.

Scientists and global warming supporters continue to closely monitor the thinning of Antarctica and it’s disastrous consequences. Co-author Dustin Schroeder — a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — helped analyze data from a radar that penetrated the ice, to demonstrate that warm, ocean water could reach the glacier through newly discovered troughs.

“Totten Glacier and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet are a much more interesting and dynamic part of the sea level rise story than we’d previously thought.”

Additionally, the study says that in certain areas of Antarctica, including the Totten Glacier located in the East of the frozen continent, warm water can be found underneath the icy surface.

“In some areas of the ocean surrounding Antarctica, warm water can be found below cooler water because it is saltier, and therefore heavier, than the shallower water. Seafloor valleys that connect this deep warm water to the coast can especially compromise glaciers, but this process had previously been seen only under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Deep warm water had been observed seaward of Totten Glacier, but there was no evidence that it could compromise coastal ice.”

“The newly discovered troughs are deep enough to give the deep warm water access to the huge cavity under the glacier. The deeper of the two troughs extends from the ocean to the underside of Totten Glacier in an area not previously known to be floating.”

Totten Glacier,
Totten Glacier, Image via the Washington Post

According to another group of researchers — Glenn Clark and Amy Leventer — up until recently, the East Antarctica Glacier was “the single largest, least understood, and potentially unstable marine glacial system in the world. Despite intense scrutiny of marine-based systems in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, little is known about the Totten Glacier system.”

In January 2015, Clark published initial findings of the surface research conducted in 2014.

“Ocean current temperatures have increased not only at the surface but far below it. This has a negative effect to the stability of the Ice sheet as warmer waters now infiltrate between the continent and the sheet.”

“Evidence of exiting water below the massive ice sheet was found from a series of seismic tests has shown large troughs or ravines indicative of drainage.”

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest mass of ice on Earth and covers 98 percent of the continent, according to Science Daily.

[Photo by Getty Images]