The West Antarctic Ice Sheet Seems to Be Good at Collapsing
As it shrinks, sea level rises—and a new study finds it shrank dramatically even when Earth was not as warm as today.
Scientists have discovered that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet underwent a major retreat between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, at a time when the world was actually cooler than it is today. The collapse happened at the close of the last Ice Age, and it left the ice sheet 135,000 square miles smaller than it is today – a difference nearly as large as the state of Montana.
“That the ice sheet could retreat beyond where it is today, in a climate that was likely quite a bit colder than today, points to extraordinary sensitivity,” says Robert DeConto, a glaciologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who was not involved in the research.
Most researchers had believed that the West Antarctic ice