- New research shows the Pine Island Glacier is closer to collapse than previously thought.
- Research has shown that the vulnerable glacier has accelerated by 12% over the past three years as the ice shelf surrounding it shatters.
- This discovery could speed up the timeline for the collapse of the entire glacier into the sea, which would rapidly increase sea level rise.
The research, published in Science Advances Friday, found that the vulnerable glacier had accelerated by 12% over the past three years as the ice shelf that held it in place broke. This discovery could accelerate the chronology of the collapse of the entire glacier in the sea, and underscores the urgent need to act to combat the climate crisis.
“These scientific findings continue to highlight the vulnerability of Antarctica, a major reservoir for potential sea level rise,” said Twila Moon, a National Snow and Ice Data scientist who was not part of the research. The PA. “Again and again, other research has confirmed that the future evolution of Antarctica will depend on human greenhouse gas emissions.
The Pine Island Glacier is one of the two Antarctic glaciers of most concern to scientists. This and the Thwaites Glacier lie side by side in western Antarctica and control the rest of the region’s ice.
If they both collapsed, the world’s sea level would rise by several meters in a matter of centuries, a University of Washington (UW) press release explained. The Pine Island Glacier alone contains enough ice to cause sea level to rise 1.6 feet if it melts. And this is already having an impact. It raises sea level by a sixth of a millimeter every year and, according to the AP, accounts for about 25% of total ice loss in Antarctica.
But the glacier is prevented from retreating further by its pack ice, which acts like a flying buttress on a cathedral, containing its mass, the press release explained. This is why the Friday study is of concern. He analyzed satellite images to show that sea ice lost a fifth of its area between 2017 and 2020 and retreated 19 kilometers (about 12 miles) during that time, the study authors wrote.
The images, recorded by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, were taken every 12 days between 2015 and 2017, and every six days between 2017 and today. They revealed that the ice shelf lost most of its mass in three large breaks, causing icebergs more than five miles long by 35 wide to calve, according to the AP.
The study also examined the relationship between the breaking of the pack ice and the retreat of the glacier, and found that the movements of the glacier were directly related to the deterioration of the pack ice.
“The recent changes in speed are not due to the thinning caused by the melt; rather, they are due to the loss of the outer part of the pack ice,” said the study’s lead author and glaciologist at the UW Ian Joughin in the press release.
All of this means that the plateau and the glacier could both collapse much sooner than expected.
“It’s not at all inconceivable to say that the rest of the pack ice could disappear within a decade,” Joughin said. The Washington Post. “It’s a long shot. But it’s not that big a long shot.”