Warm water beneath Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier is melting the ice shelf at a rate of about 2.4 inches (6 centimeters) per day, according to a new study. & Scheuchl, B. What is the ice volume of Thwaites Glacier? Colours in addition show the flow speed. Geology 39, 691-694 (2011). 53 , 156 – 162 ( 2012 ). Digital Story Innovation Team. Ann. As Pine Island’s ice shelf weakens, so does this buttressing force, which can hasten the flow of ice from the land. & Vaughan, D.G. Schoof, C. Ice sheet grounding line dynamics: Steady states, stability, and hysteresis. 1. that the ice has roughly a third of the density of water (under/over water ratio of the floating blocks). For Pine Island, it’s the latest in a string of dramatic calving events that scientists fear may be the prelude to an even larger disintegration as climate change thaws the frozen continent. But as with other recent calvings at Pine Island and other West Antarctic glaciers, the primary driver was the influx of warm subsurface water into the Amundsen Sea Embayment, which is causing ice to melt from below. Pine Island Glacier ice shelf now has one of the fastest rates of ice-shelf thinning in Antarctica24,25. If Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers destabilize, its neighbors will fall apart. The ice stream continued to recede from 16,400 to 12,300 years ago, controlled by global sea level rise. However, scientists have several ingenious ways in which they can observe changes to this fragile, important ice stream. Over the weekend, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites spotted a significant breakup, or calving event, underway on Pine Island Glacier’s floating ice shelf. Ice Flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. It can dive to 1600 m and travel 400 km, and it has a clever collision avoidance system. & Scheuchl, B. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 333–334, 191-199 (2012). Just watch how fast the ice flows in the video below, and notice especially how the ice speeds up when it reaches the floating ice shelf. (2012) predict recession over the next 200 years with huge uncertainty over the rate of retreat, and full collapse of the trunk of Pine Island Glacier during the 22nd Century remains a possibility15. The point at which glaciers and ice shelves start to float is the … Measurements from the British Antarctic Survey’s Autosub, the intrepid sub-ice shelf explorer, help scientists understand sub-ice conditions. The shear zone is located where the glacier meets the ice shelf, which acts as a braking system that slows the downstream flow of the glaciers towards the sea. The area drained by Pine Island Glacier comprises about 10% of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Releasing a huge iceberg, by itself, is a normal process, unrelated to warming, but increased calving may occur in the future if the ice shelf continues to thin, which would make it susceptible to plate bending and hydrofracture processes21. From ice-shelf tributary to tidewater glacier: continued rapid glacier recession, acceleration and thinning of Röhss Glacier following the 1995 collapse of the Prince Gustav Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. The largest contibution to global sea level rise from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets combined is around 16.9 mm per year, but is more likely to be around 5.4 mm per year by 2100. Pine Island Glacier ice shelf periodically calves huge icebergs. Nature Geosci 1, 106-110 (2008). 28. Antarctica’s contribution to global sea level rise, Pine Island Glacier: the longer term view, difficult to assess how soon a collapse of Pine Island Glacier could occur, http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/pine-island-glacier-2013-iceberg-rift-update/, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/is-pine-island-glacier-the-weak-underbelly-of-the-west-antarctic-ice-sheet/, Calculating glacier ice volumes and sea level equivalents, Antarctic supraglacial lakes and ice-shelf collapse, Dealing with uncertainty: predicting future sea level rise, Degree day models: Modelling glacier melt, A introduction to the hierarchy of ice-sheet models, The role of debris cover on glacier ablation, Introduction to glaciated valley landsystems, Cirque glaciation landsystem of upland Britain, Subpolar landsystems of James Ross Island, Alpine icefield landsystem of upland Britain, Plateau icefield landsystem of upland Britain, Quantifying ice sheet thinning using cosmogenic nuclide ages, Precision and accuracy in glacial geology, Ice stream initiation on the northern Antarctic Peninsula, Geophysical Surveys: The Gamburtsev Mountains, Glacial geomorphology of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, The westerly winds and the Patagonian Ice Sheet, Glaciolacustrine Landforms in Patagonia, Chile, Introduction to the Glaciation of Britain, The LGM British-Irish Ice Sheet: an introduction, Shelf-edge margins of the British-Irish Ice Sheet, Unlocking ice-flow pathways using glacial erratics, Introduction to the Glacial Landsystems of the Younger Dryas glaciation of Britain, Teaching resources on the last British-Irish Ice Sheet, Post-16 education and A-Level content on AntarcticGlaciers, A-Level Geography Fieldwork Investigation. Annals of Glaciology 34, 277-282 (2002). Quaternary Science Reviews 21, 1879-1897 (2002). “All in all, not good news for the inland ice flowing out from Pine Island Glacier,” Shuman says. Despite this interest, Pine Island Glacier is difficult to access. “What is unsettling is that the daily data stream [from satellites] reveals the dramatic pace at which climate is redefining the face of Antarctica,” said Mark Drinkwater, senior scientist and cryosphere specialist at the European Space Agency, in a press release. 27. More work at a higher resolution, combined with modelling studies, is required to fine-tune and better understand the longer-term history of Pine Island Glacier. Scambos, T., Fricker, H.A., Liu, C.-C., Bohlander, J., Fastook, J., Sargent, A., Massom, R. & Wu, A.-M. Ice shelf disintegration by plate bending and hydro-fracture: Satellite observations and model results of the 2008 Wilkins ice shelf break-ups. You can use Google Earth below to explore the ice stream. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 280, 51-60 (2009). 9. “The events of the past five to 10 years seem to be exceptional for the area compared to the retreat in the past 70 years,” Bert Wouters, a satellite remote sensing expert at TU Delft in the Netherlands who has been monitoring Pine Island Glacier closely, writes in an email. Pine Island’s ice shelf A., Wingham, D.J., Mansley, J.A.D during the NASA/Centro de Estudios,. In turn, is related to the thinning of Pine Island Glacier is difficult to access the ice is! Problem and encouraging further melting. ), G.H., Smith, A.M. Reassessment of glacier’s... Under its own weight toward the edges of the West Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional modelling... A remote West Antarctic ice Sheet, thinning and Glacier acceleration observed on Pine Island Glacier has configuration... Large ice shelf increased by 50 % from 1994 to 2011 ; this increased under! 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