“Changes in the Ice”. Pine Island Glacier’s Crack Heard Round the World

February 7, 2012

I reported here when NASA’s Ice Bridge flight serendipitously discovered a large new crack in the PIG – Antarctica’s  Pine Island Glacier.
There’s more. National Geographic interviews the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s Ted Scambos.

National Geographic News:

With a gargantuan crack slowly splitting it apart, Antarctica‘s fastest-melting glacier is about to lose a chunk of ice larger than all of New York City, scientists say.

Glaciers that flow into the sea, like the Pine Island Glacier, go through a normal cycle in which the floating section grows, stresses mount, and an iceberg breaks off, Scambos said.

“That is nothing unusual in most cases.”

But when the pattern deviates, glaciologists take notice. In this case, the crack is forming significantly farther “upstream” than has previously been the case. That “signifies that there are changes in the ice,” he said.

When “that point of rifting starts to climb upstream, generally you see some acceleration of the glacier.” That means that the ice will flow into the ocean at a faster rate, contributing even more to sea level rise.

(Related: “Hundreds of Glaciers Melting Faster in Antarctica.”)

Such an acceleration is of particular concern at the Pine Island Glacier, because, among Antarctic glaciers, it’s “the one that’s contributing the most to sea level rise.”

In fact, he said, ice flows from that glacier alone account for a quarter to a third of Antarctica’s total contribution to sea level rise.

“It’s moving at about three kilometers [almost two miles] per year,” Scambos said. And, he noted, “it’s been accelerating quite a bit.”v

“This glacier,” NSIDC’s Scambos added, “is really important.”

See NASA IceBridge video below:


4 Responses to ““Changes in the Ice”. Pine Island Glacier’s Crack Heard Round the World”

  1. Martin Lack Says:

    Thanks for this Peter.

    I must admit I had never heard of James Mercer before your last post on this subject (3 November 2011), but was really struck by the way in which he preceded anyone – by quite a few years – in warning that, once ice shelf fragmentation became obvious we would know we were in serious trouble.

    That time has, quite clearly, now come.

    The timing of your original piece was quite fortuitous in that linking to it fitted nicely into my critique of Richard Lindzen as a former apologist for the Tobacco industry turned climate change denier:
    Is Richard Lindzen the devil’s advocate? (4 Nov 2011), which itself arose out of my learning of James Hansen’s characterisation of Lindzen as behaving like a lawyer who only puts forward information and argument favourable to his client; and as someone that does not seek truth because a lawyer merely seeks a win for his client. No prizes for guessing who his “client” is (although the acronym in common usage could stand for Fallacies, Falsehoods [and] Lies?)…

  2. […] However, rather than re-posting Peter’s most recent item about the PIG, I will merely insert links to all of the above-referenced items in chronological order, in the hope those unfamiliar with it, will investigate the whole story (each will open in a new window): – New crack in the PIG (3 Nov 2011). – Is Richard Lindzen the devil’s advocate? (4 Nov 2011). – “Changes in the Ice” – Pine Island Glacier’s crack heard round the world (7 Feb …. […]

  3. […] that several rifts present in the ice shelves suggest that they are poised to shrink further. I’ve reported here on the acceleration of the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) before. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s […]

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