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Tim Radford -Antarctic glacier melt could raise sea level by 3m

LONDON, 21 May, 2016 – One of Antarctica’s great glaciers could become unstable if global warming continues at the present pace. As warm seas wash the ice shelf, the land-based mass of ice could begin to retreat, cross a critical threshold in the present century and then withdraw 300 kilometres inland.

In the course of doing so it would spill tremendous quantities of water into the oceans: enough to raise global sea levels by 2.9 metres and threaten cities that are home to billions.

And here is the bad news: glaciologists have known for decades that West Antarctica’s ice sheets are unstable. But the Totten glacier is part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, a mass of ice most researchers had believed to be stable and highly unlikely to lose much of its ice, even in a warming world.

Scientists from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Britain report in Nature that they explored the underlying geology of the Totten glacier to build up a picture of its advance and retreat over many millions of years.

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