"Two years ago, a pair of scientific studies documented that the glaciers of West Antarctica, which hold back over 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) of potential sea level rise, are melting and retreating from below. The cause? It appears that these glaciers, which are perched on the seafloor deep below the ocean surface, are being lapped at by flows of warm ocean currents.
Since then, researchers have been focusing more and more urgent attention on West Antarctica — and new research published Monday in Nature Geoscience uncovers yet another consequence of this warm water intrusion, one that further highlights the region’s vulnerability.
The enormous glaciers of West Antarctica, and indeed, around the Antarctic continent, are held in place by protrusions called “ice shelves.” These are large and thick sheets of ice that float atop the sea and often attach to islands or other features, and thus provide bracing, or stabilization, holding back the flow of the ice behind them. If these floating ice shelves are weakened, or fracture and fall apart, the ice behind them will flow faster into the ocean."