I'm tired of talking about the Super Committee epic budget fail. Let's talk about something more cheerful.
How about the deterioration of the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers of West Antarctica? Here are a couple of tidbits regarding the accelerated flow of those ice sheets:
Combined IceBridge and ICESat data show the Pine Island glacieris losing more than six times as much mass per year - mass loss was measured at 7 gigatons a year in 2005 and about 46 gigatons a year in 2010 - making it one of the most significant climate change response trends that scientists see worldwide. For comparison, the Chesapeake Bay holds about 70 gigatons of water......
The retreat of Antarctica's fast-flowing Thwaites Glacier is expected to speed up within 20 years, once the glacier detaches from an underwater ridge that is currently holding it back, says a new study in Geophysical Research Letters.
Thwaites Glacier, which drains into west Antarctica's Amundsen Sea, is being closely watched for its potential to raise global sea levels as the planet warms....
....Scientists had previously identified a rock feature off west Antarctica that appeared to be slowing the glacier's slide into the sea. But this study is the first to connect it to a larger ridge, using geophysical data collected during flights over Thwaites Glacier in 2009 under NASA's Ice Bridge campaign.
source: "Scientists Predict Faster Retreat for Antarctic Thwaites Glacier." Space Daily8 Nov. 2011.
If you had trouble with that, what appears to be happening around the coasts of the Antarctic continent is a process of glacier melting by warming water. The base of the glacier extends offshore, anchored on a ridge on the ocean floor. Ocean currents deliver water that is slightly warmer than it used to be- warm enough to undermine the glacier and begin to melt it from underneath. In time, the anchoring on the underwater ridge fails, and the glacier begins to move more rapidly, driving the mass of ice into the sea at several kilometers per year. The water continues to percolate underneath the thinning glacier, which eventually breaks, delivering a massive iceberg into the ocean which drifts north, melting as it goes. The process repeats itself, more quickly as the years pass. Sea level gradually rises. There is no way to reverse the rise, because the only way to do that would be to freeze thousands of gigatons of sea water and pile the ice up on top of dry land.