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planet in peril

The collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet has scientists extremely worried

JOE RAEDLE/Getty Images

According to new climate data, the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to gradually melt, with potentially earth-changing results. Discovery reports that if the glaciers in the area melt completely, it could cause a massive "destabilizing effect" that could raise the earth's sea level by as much as 13 feet.

"Today we present observational evidence that the [ice sheet] has gone into irreversible retreat," said Jean Rignot, the author of a study published in Geophysical Research Letters. "It has reached the point of no return." The ice sheet, which consists of several glaciers, shows that the Thwaites Glacier is shedding several meters of ice elevation every year.

While scientists predict the glaciers won't be completely melted for another 200 to 900 years, their gradual retreat will have significant effects on the environment long before then.