Last week, President Obama warned that climate change is already here and not "some distant part of the future." Now researchers at NASA and the University of California Irvine have found evidence that man-made global warming may have already caused some irreversible damage.
On Monday, NASA and U.C. Irvine released a joint report finding that a section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet "appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea," according to a statement on NASA's website.
"The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable," said glaciologist Eric Rignot, one of the report's lead authors, in the statement. "The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable."
Researchers estimate the melting glaciers contain enough ice to raise global sea levels by as much as four feet once they're fully melted. Already, rising sea levels are dramatically reshaping coastal regions of the United States, such as Maryland's Eastern Shore. A 2013 study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that rising sea levels have already substantially increased the annual probability of Hurricane Sandy-style flooding in New York City and the surrounding region.