A new study into the structural damage of two major Antarctic glaciers reveals that ice shelf weakening has rapidly evolved in recent years.
Multi-satellite imagery identified damage areas, sparking concerns that structural weakening could lead to major ice shelf collapse in the decades to come. This collapse, in turn, reduces the glaciers’ ability to hold back major sections of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet from running into the ocean.
Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier are located in the Amundsen Sea Embayment. The fastest-changing outlet glaciers in the region, they account for Antarctica’s largest contribution to global sea level rise. Scientists have anticipated for at least 20 years that these glaciers will be the first to respond to climate change, Jessica O’Reilly, an environmental anthropologist at Indiana University, told GlacierHub.
If the ice shelves of these two glaciers collapse, it could trigger large-scale disintegration of the nearby West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds enough ice to raise global sea level by about 10 feet. The glaciers provide a natural buffering system that is holding back the enormous ice sheet upstream, but if structural damage is weakening the ice shelves, rapid outflow into the ocean could occur in the coming years.
Continue reading at Columbia University Earth Institute
Image via Columbia University Earth Institute