RESTON, Va., Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Geological Survey says every ice shelf in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula is retreating because of climate change.
The USGS says its report is the first to document that every ice front in that area has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990.
The retreat, scientists said, could result in sea-level rise if warming continues, threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands worldwide.
The USGS previously documented the majority of ice fronts on the entire peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.
Officials said the ice shelves are attached to the continent, holding in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 percent of the Antarctic continent. As the ice shelves break off, it becomes easier for outlet glaciers and ice streams from the ice sheet to flow into the sea. That transition of ice from land to the ocean is what raises the sea level.
"This research is part of a larger ongoing USGS project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline in detail, and this is important because the Antarctic ice sheet contains 91 percent of Earth's glacier ice," USGS scientist Jane Ferrigno said.
"The loss of ice shelves is evidence of the effects of global warming," she added. "We need to be alert and continually understand and observe how our climate system is changing."