The glacial melting in Antarctica spurred by climate change may be much worse than previously thought, according to a paper published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience.
Using evidence gathered at the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica, the report found that warm water may be thinning the ice in the region with potentially “significant global consequences."
"The idea of warm ocean water eroding the ice in West Antarctica, what we’re finding is that may well be applicable in East Antarctica as well,” Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London, told the Washington Post.
“The ice flowing through Totten Glacier alone is sufficient to raise global sea level by at least 11 feet," according to a statement from the University of Texas at Austin, where four of the paper’s 11 authors are based.
Prior studies have suggested that the rate of melting in Western Antarctica may be accelerating and could be impossible to halt. Researchers at NASA and the University of California reported last year that Antarctic ice could continue to melt for centuries even if humans dramatically reduced carbon emissions. The Center for Polar Observation and Monitoring, in the U.K., found in a separate report last year that the rate of melting in Antarctica from 2011 to 2014 had doubled compared to the three previous years.
A precipitous sea level rise could inundate the homes of hundreds of millions of people. Research by the environmental reporting group Climate Central found that between 147 million and 216 million people worldwide “live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by the end of the century.” That includes as many as 3.8 million people living in the United States.