Goodbye West Antarctica, It’s Been Real

Eric Rignot, NASA glaciologist and lead author of one of the two terrible climate change reports released last week, writes at the Guardian:

We had collected enough observations to conclude that the retreat of ice in the Amundsen sea sector of West Antarctica was unstoppable, with major consequences — it will mean that sea levels will rise one metre worldwide. What’s more, its disappearance will likely trigger the collapse of the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which comes with a sea level rise of between three and five metres. Such an event will displace millions of people worldwide.

He adds:

The Amundsen sea sector is not the only vulnerable part of the continent. East Antarctica includes marine-based sectors that hold more ice. One of them, Totten glacier, holds the equivalent of seven metres of global sea level.

At the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert reminds us that “the unfortunate fact about uncertainty is that the error bars always go in both directions. While it is possible that the problem could turn out to be less serious than the consensus forecast, it is equally likely to turn out to be more serious. In fact, it increasingly appears that, if there is any systemic bias in the climate models, it’s that they understate the gravity of the situation.” [Guardian, TNY]