Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 112(2007). If the ice isn’t in fact that surprisingly low density, I would suggest you correct that. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- Nature Clim. After more than two weeks of successful flights over Antarctica and its surrounding waters and sea ice, one of the more interesting things NASA’s Operation IceBridge team has seen this year is a large crack running across the floating ice shelf of Pine Island Glacier. Previous investigations of this glacier, based on Landsat images of the early to mid-1970s, estimated a velocity of 2.1-2.4 km/yr at the ice … Nature 271, 321-325 (1978). suggests that there will be more disintegration soon. 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. Pine Island Glacier is a cause for concern, because it’s thinning rapidly, steepening, accelerating and receding. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 333–334, 191-199 (2012). Bamber, J. L., and Aspinall, W. P. (2013). Scientists think the change in calving frequency is likely related to the thinning of the ice shelf. The Antarctic ice sheetis the largest mass of ice on earth, containing a volume of water equivalent to 57 m (187 ft) of global sea level. Cryosphere 3, 125-131 (2009). Journal of Glaciology 27: 518-525. The area … doi: 10.3189/2012AoG60A073 “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. & Holland, D.M. This threshold has yet to be passed. It’s also in line with the bigger picture of climate change. If the glaciers were to pop loose at their grounding line, water could seep between ice and rock. The recently calved iceberg may be 720 km2, but that’s the least of this ice stream’s worries. Despite this interest, Pine Island Glacier is difficult to access. 26. & van Meijgaard, E. Recent Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional climate modelling. 6. | Pine Island Glacier ice shelf | Pine Island Glacier: the longer term view | Conclusions | References | Comments |. The ice stream is heavily-crevassed and dangerous, so walking on it is difficult. That, in turn, is related to shifting wind patterns that are pushing warm, deep ocean water onto the continental shelf. Sea ice keeps ships away, making it difficult to access the ice stream from the ocean. 10. Some studies have suggested that the entire main trunk of Pine Island Glacier could unground and become afloat within 100 years14, but more recent modelling efforts suggest that much longer timescales are needed to unground the entire trunk2. Hughes T. (1981). Removal of the ice shelf would likely result in rapid acceleration, thinning and recession as the glacier adjusts to new boundary conditions; these reactions have been observed following ice shelf collapse around the Antarctic Peninsula17-21. 53 , 156 – 162 ( 2012 ). The ice shelf base of across-profiles III and IV does not change much in depth but the basal channel itself widens. The first reference to this being the weak underbelly is Hughes (1981). In 2015, an iceberg measuring almost 225 square miles (580 square kilometers) broke off from the Pine Island Glacier, which forms part of the ice shelf that bounds the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Rignot, E., Mouginot, J. Cryosphere , 7 ( 5 ), 1543 – 1555 Dutrieux , P and 9 others ( 2014a ) Strong sensitivity of Pine Island ice-shelf … 9. Gladstone, R.M., Lee, V., Rougier, J., Payne, A.J., Hellmer, H., Le Brocq, A., Shepherd, A., Edwards, T.L., Gregory, J. A series of instruments, including a small, tube-shaped robot called Icefin, were deployed to collect data and capture the very first footage of this mysterious realm. The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming regions on the planet, with two major glaciers, the Thwaites Glacier and the Pine Island Glacier, retreating faster than new ice can form. & Cornford, S.L. On Friday I had the opportunity to be co-pilot for the British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter airplane flight taking 2000 lbs of freight down to Pine Island Glacier … It is important that we take a longer-term perspective of the current changes observed on Pine Island Glacier. & Vaughan, D.G. All rights reserved. Pine Island Glacier has undergone several major iceberg calving events over the past decades. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 280, 51-60 (2009). 2. hence that the ice is breaking of because of water pressure from below. & Scheuchl, B. & Anderson, J.B. Reconstruction of the West Antarctic ice sheet in Pine Island Bay during the Last Glacial Maximum and its subsequent retreat history. What is concerning is the current intense melting, thinning and glacier acceleration observed on Pine Island Glacier ice shelf22. The intervals between the events seem to be getting shorter, another symptom of the glacier’s unhealthy state. Pine Island Glacier last calved a significant iceberg in 2001, and some scientists have speculated recently that it was primed to calve again. Sensitivity of 21st century sea level to ocean-induced thinning of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. 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. Nature Geoscience 3, 468-472 (2010). Indeed, Pine Island’s ice has been flowing out to sea faster since the 1990s, with the ice stream now moving at a rate exceeding 35 feet per day, according to Drinkwater. 21. Low lying cloud often makes flying hazardous. The ice shelf around Pine Island Glacier is currently thinning, and it is warmed from below by Circumpolar Deep Water that flows onto the continental shelf 22,23. By Sunday, a 120 square-mile chunk of ice—a little under three San Franciscos in size—had broken off the glacier’s front. Annals of Glaciology 34, 277-282 (2002). Pine Island Glacier is a large ice stream, and the fastest thinning glacier in Antarctica, responsible for about 25% of Antarctica's ice loss. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Learn how your comment data is processed. 5. It is remote from any research bases, so flying there means making multiple short flights, making fuel depots to allow scientists to hop to the location. 14. 2008, you can see that mass losses from Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier dominate Antarctic Ice Sheet ice losses. This ice shelf collapsed after 10600 years ago28, when warmer waters flowed onto the continental shelf. It reached its current position around 10,000 years ago27. Vaughan, D.G. It empties into a small ice shelf, bordering the Amundsen Sea, that is commonly considered part of this glacier system. Rignot, E., Bamber, J.L., van den Broeke, M.R., Davis, C., Li, Y., van de Berg, W.J. Uncertainty over the future behaviour of Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is one of the largest constraints on accurately predicting future sea level rise16. 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. Research at the Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf Scott Borg National Science Foundation Robert Bindschadler NASA Emeritus Timothy Stanton Naval Postgraduate School Sridhar Anandakrishnan The Pennsylvania State University. Geophysical Research Letters 31, L18402 (2004). 17. On the ice-covered edge of a remote West Antarctic bay, the continent’s most imperiled glaciers threaten to redraw Earth’s coastlines. “All in all, not good news for the inland ice flowing out from Pine Island Glacier,” Shuman says. Shepherd, A., Wingham, D.J., Mansley, J.A.D. This iceberg was finally calved in July 2013. It rapidly shrank back from around 16,400 years ago, when rising sea levels made this ice stream more buoyant, causing lift-off, decoupling from the ice sheet’s bed, and recession. The white dots show how particles move with the ice which are initially randomly distributed over the ice surface. & Skvarca, P. Glacier acceleration and thinning after ice shelf collapse in the Larsen B embayment, Antarctica. The grounding line receded by more than 20 km from 1996 to 20092. But until an Oct. 14 IceBridge flight of NASA's DC-8, no one had seen any evidence of the ice shelf beginning to … Pine Island Glacier is buttressed by a large, floating ice shelf, which helps to stabilise the glacier, but this ice shelf is itself thinning and recently calved a huge iceberg. Measurements from the British Antarctic Survey’s Autosub, the intrepid sub-ice shelf explorer, help scientists understand sub-ice conditions. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. It is buttressed by a large ice shelf that is currently thinning8, and the ice stream itself has a negative mass balance (the melting is not replaced by snowfall)3, it is flowing faster9,  and the grounding line is retreating further and further up into the bay. Most of this transport to the sea is by ice streams (faster moving channels of ice surrounded by slower mo… Photograph courtesy Copernicus Sentinel, European Space Agency, A huge iceberg just broke off West Antarctica’s most endangered glacier, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/02/antarctica-pine-island-glacier.html, Find out why it's our fault that West Antarctica is melting. Scott, J.B.T., Gudmundsson, G.H., Smith, A.M., Bingham, R.G., Pritchard, H.D. 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. 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. 7. 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. The scenario is glaciological nightmare-fuel, but the jury is still out on how likely it is. Around this time, Pine Island Glacier started to shed smaller icebergs more frequently. Ocean-excited plate waves in the Ross and Pine Island Glacier ice shelves - Volume 64 Issue 247 - ZHAO CHEN, PETER D. BROMIRSKI, PETER GERSTOFT, RALPH A. STEPHEN, DOUGLAS A. WIENS, RICHARD C. ASTER, ANDREW A. (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 team observed the crack on the DC-8’s Oct. 14 flight. The latest calving event is the seventh of the past century for Pine Island, with prior calvings occurring in 2001, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018, according to Copernicus. By Julia Jacobo. In October, 2011, NASA's Operation IceBridge discovered a major rift in the Pine Island Glacier in western Antarctica. This image, taken on February 11 by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, shows the Pine Island Glacier's newly calved icebergs in detail. Glaciers that flow into an ice shelf are tributary glaciers.. The so-called grounding line where the glaciers make contact with bedrock lies below sea level, meaning it’s vulnerable to attack by warm ocean water. However, outlet glaciers like Pine Island act as a brake on the flow of land-bound ice, which does raise sea levels as it empties into the sea. The ice stream is steepening, which increases the gravitational driving stress, helping it to flow faster, and there is no indication that the glacier is approaching a steady state10. However, scientists have several ingenious ways in which they can observe changes to this fragile, important ice stream. Much of this ice loss is from Pine Island Glacier, which has thinned since at least 1992, driven by changes in ocean heat transport beneath its ice shelf and retreat of the grounding line. An active volcano has been unexpectedly discovered beneath a rapidly vanishing glacier in Antarctica by a team of scientists studying the melting ice shelf. Marine sediment cores and swath bathymetry from ships can image the sea floor and detect and date the former behaviour of this ice stream. With temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula spiking to a record 65 degrees Fahrenheit last week, the signs of rapid transformation are becoming difficult to ignore. , Sensitivity of the ice shelf ocean system to the sub-ice shelf cavity shape measured by NASA IceBridge in Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica. The ice then moves under its own weight toward the edges of the continent. Hughes, T. A simple holistic hypothesis for the self-destruction of ice sheets. Under the A1B “Business as Usual” emissions scenario from the IPCC (2.6°C warming by 2100), Gladstone et al. In the lead-up to its recent calving, the glacier was moving even more rapidly than usual. & Padman, L. Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves. Change 3, 424-427. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 364, 1637-1655 (2006). The DC-8 took off on Oct. 26, 2011, to collect more data on the ice shelf and the crack. Free online lecture: The Glaciers are melting: What happens next? Pine Island Glacier flows at rates of up to 4000 m per year2. What is the ice volume of Thwaites Glacier? Shrinking Antarctic ice shelf Pine Island Glacier sheds giant iceberg. Calving events like this don’t contribute to sea level rise directly, because floating ice shelves are already displacing water. By Youtube user pikff1. 20. You can also see how the surface of both the ice stream and ice shelf is heavily crevassed, making it difficult to walk on the surface of the ice. Do we want that? The eastern half, including many smaller shards of ice, is following suit. 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. As Pine Island’s ice shelf weakens, so does this buttressing force, which can hasten the flow of ice from the land. If Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers destabilize, its neighbors will fall apart. 12. Are these on-going changes unprecedented, or are they part of the normal behaviour for the glacier? 4. The Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest ice streams in West Antarctica. For the Pine Island Glacier, ... the western and central parts of the Pine Island ice shelf have shrunk by about 30 percent, from about 1,500 square miles down to closer to 1,000 square miles. In the figure below, from Rignot et al. The area drained by Pine Island Glacier comprises about 10% of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Colours in addition show the flow speed. Digital Story Innovation Team. dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. Quaternary Science Reviews 38, 11-26 (2012). 23. Climatic Change 91, 65-79 (2008). Schoof, C. Ice sheet grounding line dynamics: Steady states, stability, and hysteresis. 3. Pine Island Glacier is currently flowing very quickly and it is accelerating, causing thinning. At the Last Glacial Maximum, circa 18,000 years ago, the ice stream was at the continental shelf edge27. Shuman says that the breakup of Pine Island’s latest iceberg into many small shards “suggests just how ‘weak’ the floating ice tongue of [Pine Island] has become.” That, combined with the ice front’s current, seemingly unstable configuration, suggests that there will be more disintegration soon. Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica, and drains much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. De Angelis, H. & Skvarca, P. Glacier surge after ice shelf collapse. However, data from Autosubs that did return indicates that more warm Circumpolar Deep Water has been in Pine Island Bay in recent summers22. By Mark Doman. Science (2011). These data suggest that the recession of this ice stream was largely controlled by sea level rise, with a 55 m in sea level rise during deglaciation resulting in 225 km of grounding-line recession26. 1. that the ice has roughly a third of the density of water (under/over water ratio of the floating blocks). Because the bedrock slopes downward as one travels inland, this could result in an increasingly thick, unstable ice shelf that produces bigger and bigger icebergs, ultimately leading to runaway collapse. Pine Island Glacier ice shelf periodically calves huge icebergs. The Pine Island Glacier, called the weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is rapidly losing ice to the sea. 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. Rignot, E. Ice-shelf changes in Pine Island Bay, Antarctica, 1947-2000. 8. Quaternary Science Reviews 21, 1879-1897 (2002). Mass loss from this basin doubled from 1996 to 2006, and it is the largest ice loss in Antarctica. It can dive to 1600 m and travel 400 km, and it has a clever collision avoidance system. Caption: Visualisation of ice flow in the Antarctic ice sheet model PISM-PIK. Learn more on EarthSky. 22. This photo shows the ice front of the ice shelf in front of Pine Island Glacier, a major glacier system of West Antarctica. Huge amounts of meltwater are generated in a large cavity beneath the ice shelf. These typically occurred when a rift at the heavily fractured shear margin propagated across the width of the ice shelf. It seems that the glacier is capable of very rapid recession within millennial timescales27, and that the dynamics between ice shelf and ice stream are intrinsically linked. Pine Island Glacier (PIG) in West Antarctica drains out to the Amundsen Sea through Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf (PIGIS). If you zoom in far enough, you’ll be able to see the huge crack in the ice shelf. The recent breakup, which was bigger than those in 2017 and 2018 but smaller than iceberg calvings in the early 2000s, according to Wouters, might have been partly driven by mild weather last winter. “The weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet”. Home » Antarctica » West Antarctic Ice Sheet » Pine Island Glacier, Investigating Pine Island Glacier | Why is Pine Island Glacier important? A series of rifts that satellites have been monitoring since early 2019 grew rapidly last week. 2. Mercer, J.H. Note article at Realclimate. Science (2013). Glaciol. It is a normal part of life for the floating ice from huge glaciers to fracture near the seaward edge and … … Geophysical Research Letters 37, L20502 (2010). “The event will undoubtedly evolve,” he says. However, when retreating further, they could destabilize the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which contains enough ice to … A large, long-running crack was plainly visible across the ice shelf. Podcast on Antarctica, geopolitics and climate change, Podcast with the GA on Glaciers and Glaciation, Funding from the Antarctic Science International Bursary, Talk on teaching resources: recording available, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Thinning can destabilize the shelf because the ice loses contact with points on the ocean floor that strongly influence its grounding or … Nature Geoscience 4, 519-523 (2011). http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/pine-island-glacier-2013-iceberg-rift-update/ West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse effect – threat of disaster. Look for more imagery of the crack coming soon. Note: IceBridge flew a second mission to the Pine Island region on Wed., Oct. 26. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 1829-1845 (2011). If you examine the MODIS imagery are you sure about the July 2013 calving date, no separation occurred until November 2013? Updated February 13, 2020 17:43:14 The velocity is well above that required to maintain mass balance – so the ice stretches longitudinally, and thins vertically3. 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. Ice Shelf Melting Around Antarctica. As changes in ice velocities on PIGIS are strongly linked to changes in ice mass discharge from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, it is very important to evaluate the spatiotemporal variations in ice velocities on the ice shelf. The ice shelf around Pine Island Glacier is currently thinning, and it is warmed from below by Circumpolar Deep Water that flows onto the continental shelf22,23. Jenkins, A., Dutrieux, P., Jacobs, S.S., McPhail, S.D., Perrett, J.R., Webb, A.T. & White, D. Observations beneath Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica and implications for its retreat. A crack runs across the floating ice shelf of Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, seen from NASA’s DC-8 on Oct. 14, 2011. Credit: Michael Studinger/NASA. Rott, H., Rack, W., Skvarca, P. & De Angelis, H. Northern Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica: further retreat after collapse. This ice stream is unlikely to collapse in our lifetime – but the same cannot be said for future generations. Scambos, T.A., Bohlander, J.A., Shuman, C.A. Your email address will not be published. Pine Island Glacier is of interest to scientists because it is changing rapidly; it is thinning, accelerating and receding3, all of which contribute directly to sea level, and its future under a warming climate is uncertain. Wingham, D.J., Wallis, D.W. & Shepherd, A. Spatial and temporal evolution of Pine Island Glacier thinning, 1995-2006. The point at which glaciers and ice shelves start to float is the … Joughin, I., Smith, B.E. Pine Island Glacier is one of the most dynamic features of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. It calved a large iceberg in 2001, and in 2011 a huge rift developed on the ice shelf. The latest returns from the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite suggest the western portion of the recently calved ice, including the largest iceberg, has rapidly rotated out into Pine Island Bay, according to NASA glaciologist Christopher Shuman. An expert judgement assessment of future sea level rise from the ice sheets. Rignot, E., Jacobs, S., Mouginot, J. 18. 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. These numerical computer models indicate that annual rates of sea level rise from Pine Island Glacier could reach 2.7 cm per 100 years2. Ice Flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. What is the global volume of land ice and how is it changing? This data will help fill in key gaps in scientists’ understanding of grounding zone melt dynamics, allowing them to better predict future changes, including the likelihood of runaway collapse. Because it is grounded in ever deeper sea water, it is vulnerable to melting at its base and rapid grounding line migration. 25. Pine Island is Antarctica’s most vulnerable. & Dutrieux, P. Stronger ocean circulation and increased melting under Pine Island Glacier ice shelf. This gives a total of 33 to 132 cm of global total sea level rise by 2100. They can measure changes in ice extent and thinning from satellites4,5, and they have fired javelins loaded with sensors onto the ice surface, into places with too many crevasses for people to travel. Philosophical Transactions of the largest ice streams in West Antarctica, 1947-2000 radar interferometry and regional climate.. Circumpolar Deep water has been in Pine Island Glacier drains much of the largest ice streams in Antarctica,.... Is still out on how likely it is grounded in ever deeper sea water, it.. Potential to trigger rapid losses of ice shelves and sea ice, B.L.A contact with on... Glacier strongly coupled to changes in gravitational driving stress tributary glaciers recent.! Dynamic features of the ice stream was at the continental shelf observe to! 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Lifetime – but the same can not be said for future generations in the figure below, from et. Line migration 2009 ) swath bathymetry from ships can image the sea driven by melting! That the ice stream around 10,000 years ago27 primed to calve again, exacerbating the problem and further... Thinning and Glacier acceleration and thinning after ice shelf | Pine Island Glacier is one of the ice. 34, 277-282 ( 2002 ) Glacier flows at rates of ice-shelf thinning in Antarctica24,25 to!