From the Washington Post:
Climatic changes appear to be destabilizing vast ice sheets of western Antarctica that had previously seemed relatively protected from global warming, researchers reported yesterday, raising the prospect of faster sea-level rise than current estimates.
"Without doubt, Antarctica as a whole is now losing ice yearly, and each year it’s losing more," said Eric Rignot, lead author of a paper published online in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Rignot theorizes that the warmer water of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is the cause. Douglas Martinson, a senior research scientist fellow at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, has studied the issue and agrees.
Martinson said the current, which flows about 200 yards below the frigid surface water, began to warm significantly in the 1980s, and that warming in turn caused wind patterns to change in ways that ultimately brought more warm water to shore. The result has been an increased erosion of the glaciers and ice sheets.
Martinson said researchers do not have enough data to say for certain that the process was set in motion by global warming, but "that is clearly the most logical answer."
The next logical question is what we should do about it, if anything.
Personally it’s been my view that we should act to reduce the human component of global warming – something that’s still far from being proven to be a primary cause – by accelerating our investment in energy-related research, particularly in regard to nuclear and hydrogen technologies.
It’s a nice case of serendipity that we should be doing this anyway in order to decrease the west’s dependence on oil from the Middle East.