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A glacier area the size of the entire South is melting away — and it could swallow your house

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The news on climate change is rarely good. While governments worldwide struggle to curb the combustion of fossil fuels, the climate keeps warming, and the biggest gamechangers — ice sheets and glaciers — are disappearing more rapidly than we thought.

A new study by scientists from the United States, Britain, France and Australia has found the world’s largest thinning ice sheet, the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica, is now melting from below. To put it in perspective, the Totten Glacier’s catchment area (the ice it holds in) is larger than the entire southeastern United States (at 538,000 square kilometers). If it were to melt, scientists say, the global sea level could rise eleven feet — or more than three meters worldwide.

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Let me repeat: the global sea level could rise eleven feet just because of this one glacier. (Equally terrifying is melting on the West Antarctica ice sheet, which, melted, would also raise the sea level a similar level.)

Eleven feet is a scary figure, and it could take hundreds of years. But it could also take less. The problem, the study’s authors say, is that part of the glacier is holding back a larger catchment of ice.

The floating ice shelf of the Totten glacier is a smaller size, some 90 miles by 22 miles. At the moment, it’s losing seventy gigatons of water per year, “equivalent to 100 times the volume of Sydney’s harbor every year,” according the Australian Antarctic Division.

And that’s “a conservative lower limit,” lead study author Jamin Greenbaum of University of Texas at Austin writes, as cited by The Washington Post.

The Post drew up a handy graphic to show the size of the glacier’s catchment area. Here’s a thumbnail (a larger version is available at the Post.)

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“Since the ice shelf acts to slow glacier flow, ice shelf thinning by increased melting could lead to rapid acceleration of the Totten Glacier, similar to what was observed in the wake of the disintegration of the Larsen A and B ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula (Australian Antarctic Magazine 14: 22-23, 2008),” the Australian Antarctic division notes.

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In 2014, Climate Central produced a interactive website allowing viewers to see what a sea level rise would look like, and how many people in the United States it might affect.

“More than half of the area of 40 large cities (population over 50,000) is less than 10 feet above the high tide line, from Virginia Beach and Miami (the largest affected), down to Hoboken, N.J. (smallest),” they wrote. “Twenty-seven of the cities are in Florida, where one-third of all current housing sits below the critical line — including 85 percent in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Each of these counties is more threatened than any whole state outside of Florida – and each sits on bedrock filled with holes, rendering defense by seawalls or levees almost impossible.”

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Ready to see what this kind of sea level rise could look like?

Here’s New York and New Jersey at a ten foot sea level rise, as plotted by Climate Central.

Climate Central

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The South.

Climate Central

And South Florida.

Climate Central

And what happens if both the Totten Glacier melts along with the West Antarctic ice sheet?

Here’s a map from NASA.

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And one for Florida, specifically, from the University of Arizona.

To chart how a sea level rise might affect your neighborhood, check out the sea level rise map website by Climate Central.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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BUSTED: Key Trump aide caught pushing racist vigilantism on social media

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Video of a chainsaw-wielding Texas man threatening protesters while shouting the n-word went viral on Friday.

While many people were shocked by the video, one of President Donald Trump's top advisors supported the racism and vigilantism in documented in the video, according to a new report.

"President Donald Trump and his allies for years have amplified racist messages on Twitter while simultaneously reaching out to black and Hispanic voters, a dissonant balancing act that’s now rocking the GOP amid nationwide racial-justice protests," Politico reported Saturday. "The two competing forces collided Saturday on the Twitter feed of Trump campaign senior adviser Mercedes Schlapp, when she boosted a tweet that lauded a man in Texas in a viral video as he yelled the n-word and wielded a chainsaw to chase away anti-racism demonstrators."

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2020 Election

Trump may ‘fatally wound’ his reelection by snubbing North Carolina: CNN analyst

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President Donald Trump risks alienating voters in the key swing state of North Carolina if he moves his RNC convention speech to another state, political analyst James C. Moore explained for CNN.

"Of all the institutions the Trump presidency is harming, it's likely no one suspected the Republican National Convention might be one of them. But President Donald Trump's refusal to fully acknowledge the risks associated with the pandemic is creating a new political threat to his own candidacy," he wrote. "The Republican National Convention was slated to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, in August. But the pandemic struck, and the governor has insisted on a scaled down event with safety precautions that include social distancing and face masks. The President, who wants his huddled masses shoulder to shoulder as they shout their acclimations, is now looking to deliver his convention speech in another city."

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Military leaders need to ‘speak truth to power’ — or resign: Former NSC official

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Military leaders may be forced to resign to protect America from President Donald Trump, a former National Security Council official warned.

Col. Jeff McCausland (US Army, ret.) explained his thinking in a new analysis piece for NBC News.

"On Monday, riot police supported by both National Guard troops and other federal agencies rousted peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so President Donald Trump could walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op. Trump’s understanding of the protesters — and their anger with America’s longstanding problems with racism and police brutality — appears exceedingly limited," he wrote. "He described himself as 'your president of law and order' and warned that the nation was 'gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, or, arsonists, looters, criminals.'”

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