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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.

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The South.

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And South Florida.

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

Here’s a map from NASA.

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

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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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Saturday Night Live mocks Trump as an unpopular dork at high school after disastrous NATO Summit

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NBC's "Saturday Night Live" on Saturday ridiculed President Donald Trump after he was laughed at by world leaders during a NATO Summit in London.

The skit featured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emanuel Macron as the cool kids at the NATO cafeteria, while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempts to join their cliche.

Trump asked to sit at their table, but they suggested he sit with Latvia.

They said the seat was for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was then invited to join the cool kids table.

The skit included Johnson taping an "impeach me" sign to Trump's back.

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Watch a band in cow costumes sing about Devin Nunes at White House impeachment protest

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Protesters clad in full-body furry costumes sang about Rep. Devin Nunes during a Saturday protest at the White House.

The protesters were dressed as cattle after the Fresno Republican sued a fake cow Twitter, @DevinCow.

The protesters changed the lyrics to the hit 1958 Chuck Berry song "Johnny B. Goode" to "Devin Nunes."

Video of the protested was posted to Twitter by Democratic strategist Parkhomenko, who was targeted by Nunes in one of his lawsuits.

The lyrics to the 1958 Champs song "Tequila" were changed to "subpoenas."

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Shocking photos document the devastating flooding pummeling San Francisco

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San Francisco was battered by a heavy winter storm on Saturday that caused localized flooding throughout the city.

"A low pressure system off the Northern California coast Saturday hurled bans of strong downpours into the Bay Area, triggering a flood warning for San Francisco," KPIX-TV reported.

"San Francisco Muni officials tweeted that train service between West Portal to Embarcadero Station had been shut down due to flooding. Several streets were flooded in San Francisco’s western neighborhood including knee-high water at 15th Ave and Wawona," the station noted.

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