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Global warming, Antarctic volcanoes: West Antarctic ice sheet collapse likely unstoppable

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A number of studies published in the past year show that the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet is likely unstoppable. The glacier will probably disappear in a matter of centuries, adding 13 feet (4 metres) of water to sea levels, according to NASA.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recorded two bursts of seismic activity at the same location beneath Antarctica's ice sheet, leading them to the discovery an active volcano that will speed the rate of ice-mass loss in West Antarctica.

Eruptions are unlikely to break through the surface of the ice, but volcanic activity would melt the sheet, generating large volumes of water that would speed the flow of overlaying ice draining into the Ross Ice Shelf.

Another study published by the University of California, Irvine, shows that warmer water at the depths of the ocean form caverns beneath the ice, wearing away ice grounded at the ocean floor.

These studies conclude that Antarctic instability will significantly contribute to sea level rise in the decades to come.

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