Warm ocean waters are causing the ice filling the Earth’s deepest canyon to erode and retreat, NASA scientists said this week. This erosion is creating a potential major vulnerability in the crucial Antarctic ice sheet.
A study published Monday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters details how East Antarctic’s Denman Canyon is beginning to react to climate change. It found that the glacier is beginning to retreat in an alarming pattern that could unlock serious ice loss in the ice sheet.
“In this configuration, it means that once the glacier starts retreating, it’s very hard to stop it,” study author Eric Rignot told the Washington Post. “You sort of open the floodgates.”
The report finds that if the glacier experiences “a rapid and irreversible retreat there will be “major consequences for sea level rise” – potentially more than five feet.