Rapid melting of Antarctic ice could push sea levels up 10 feet worldwide within two centuries, "recurving" heavily populated coastlines and essentially reshaping the world, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Parts of Antarctica are thawing so quickly, the continent has become "ground zero of global climate change without a doubt," Harvard geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica told AP.
The Antarctic Peninsula, including the vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet, is the region of the continent warming fastest because the land juts out in the warmer ocean. According to NASA, it is losing 49 billion tons of ice each year.
And why does that matter?
Because, as the AP declares: "The world's fate hangs on the question of how fast the ice melts."
"[I]f all the West Antarctic ice sheet that's connected to water melts unstoppably, as several experts predict, there will not be time to prepare," explain AP journalists Luis Andres Henao and Seth Borenstein.
"Scientists estimate it will take anywhere from 200 to 1,000 years to melt enough ice to raise seas by 10 feet, maybe only 100 years in a worst case scenario," they write. "If that plays out, developed coastal cities such as New York and Guangzhou could face up to $1 trillion a year in flood damage within a few decades and countless other population centers will be vulnerable."
Earlier this week, news outlets reported a "very unusual" short-term surge in sea levels along North America’s northeast coast, which scientists also linked to climate change.