Nature Geosci 1, 106-110 (2008). NASA Earth Observatory map by Lauren Dauphin, using Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) data from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota. Bathymetric controls on calving processes at Pine Island Glacier. If you examine the MODIS imagery are you sure about the July 2013 calving date, no separation occurred until November 2013? (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 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. & Padman, L. Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves. Scambos, T.A., Bohlander, J.A., Shuman, C.A. 3. Remote Sensing. While there tends to be more sea ice at this time of year, it is no match for the huge stresses within the massive ice shelf. Ice Shelf Melting Around Antarctica. 23. What is concerning is the current intense melting, thinning and glacier acceleration observed on Pine Island Glacier ice shelf22. NASA Earth Observatory animation by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. Pine Island Glacier could collapse – stagnate and retreat far up into the bay, resulting in rapid sea level rise – within the next few centuries, raising global sea levels by 1.5 m11,12, out of a total of 3.3 m from the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet13. By October 15, fragments had already fallen below 70 square kilometers (20 square nautical miles)—the minimum size required for tracking by the U.S. National Ice Center. On the ice-covered edge of a remote West Antarctic bay, the continent’s most imperiled glaciers threaten to redraw Earth’s coastlines. However, data from Autosubs that did return indicates that more warm Circumpolar Deep Water has been in Pine Island Bay in recent summers22. Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. Sea ice keeps ships away, making it difficult to access the ice stream from the ocean. 13. The above image is a still frame captured from a three-dimensional, virtual flight through the new rift in the Pine Island Glacier. Finally, scientists on board ships have deployed ‘Autosub’ beneath the very ice shelf, to make observations where no man can go. Researchers reported anomalous rifts forming between 2013 and 2015 on Pine Island Glacier. Until this point, large icebergs were calving from Pine Island Glacier every four to six years. Yet in recent years, this ice shelf has rapidly thinned and accelerated. Are these on-going changes unprecedented, or are they part of the normal behaviour for the glacier? Earth and Planetary Science Letters 280, 51-60 (2009). Pine Island Glacier ice shelf periodically calves huge icebergs. Mass loss from this basin doubled from 1996 to 2006, and it is the largest ice loss in Antarctica. Image development and design by Lauren Dauphin. The velocity is well above that required to maintain mass balance – so the ice stretches longitudinally, and thins vertically3. However, scientists have several ingenious ways in which they can observe changes to this fragile, important ice stream. NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. & Skvarca, P. Glacier acceleration and thinning after ice shelf collapse in the Larsen B embayment, Antarctica. The image above shows the iceberg on November 11, 2001. Pine Island loses an estimated 45 billion tons of ice each year. 1. that the ice has roughly a third of the density of water (under/over water ratio of the floating blocks). Climatic Change 91, 65-79 (2008). & Vaughan, D.G. "It looked to me incredibly unstable," British Antarctic Survey's Dr. Joanne Johnson told Sky News. 15. | Pine Island Glacier ice shelf | Pine Island Glacier: the longer term view | Conclusions | References | Comments |. Gladstone, R.M., Lee, V., Rougier, J., Payne, A.J., Hellmer, H., Le Brocq, A., Shepherd, A., Edwards, T.L., Gregory, J. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 112(2007). & Scheuchl, B. A faster zoom down to Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier where a crack has formed, minus the second zoom. If the glacier… 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. Pine Island Glacier is one of the most dynamic features of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Check out some photographs from that flight here. The calving event is not unusual for this glacier. Breakup Week. 16. Pine Island Glacier: Satellite animation mid-2017 to Feb-2020 Date: February 11, 2020 Author: adrianluckman Updated animation showing the last three calving events as seen by ESA’s Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar. “This underlies our concern that retreating outlet glaciers can ‘shrink’ rapidly,” Bindschadler said. 20. Increased rate of acceleration on Pine Island Glacier strongly coupled to changes in gravitational driving stress. Your email address will not be published. Since the early 1990s, the Pine Island Glacier’s ice velocity has increased dramatically to values which exceed 10 m a day. In the figure below, from Rignot et al. Story by Kathryn Hansen. The melting of this glacier accounts for 25% of the ice loss in Antarctica. 6. Journal of Glaciology 48, 247-256 (2002). Autosub is a remotely operated vehicle, loaded with sensors that measure temperature, salinity, pressure and so on, and it can map the sea bed using downward-pointing swath bathymetry. Image development and design by Lauren Dauphin. Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992 to 2017. 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. Shepherd, A., Wingham, D.J., Mansley, J.A.D. 4. Jakobsson, M., Anderson, J.B., Nitsche, F.O., Dowdeswell, J.A., Gyllencreutz, R., Kirchner, N., Mohammed, R., O’Regan, M., Alley, R.B., Andandakrishnan, S., Eriksson, B., Kirshner, A., Fernandez, R., Stolldorf, T., Minzoni, R. & Majewski, W. Geological record of ice shelf break-up and grounding line retreat, Pine Island Bay, West Antarctica. “This is indicative of a progressive collapse of the ice shelf,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Low lying cloud often makes flying hazardous. Rift in Antarctic Glacier: A Unique Chance to Study Ice Shelf Retreat. 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. Marine sediment cores and swath bathymetry from ships can image the sea floor and detect and date the former behaviour of this ice stream. 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. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. Rignot, E., Mouginot, J. 14. The ice stream glacier has an extremely remote location with the nearest human inhabited research station … Earth Matters: A Little More on That Ice Rift in Antarctica…. 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. Colours in addition show the flow speed. This melts the ice shelf from below24, and this melting is probably the cause of the observed ice stream thinning, acceleration and grounding line recession25, which is contributing to a sea level rise of 1.2 mm per decade3. 22. February 11–15. Most people will never see Pine Island Glacier in person. Ice Flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. 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. Pine Island Glacier is located in West Antarctica, has shed yet another major iceberg. Scientists watch this glacier closely because evidence has been pointing to even faster loss of ice in the future, NASA says. It’s about eight times the size of New York, or half the size of Greater London, at 720 km2. While this outlet glacier is just one of many around the perimeter of Antarctica, data collected from the ground, air, and space confirm that Pine Island is worth extra attention. Pine Island Glacier is one of many outlet glaciers around the perimeter of Antarctica, but observations have shown that this glacier is worth extra attention. Recently, it was reported that Pine Island Glacier (PIG) in Antarctica has started a rapid retreat that has doubled the mass of ice being discharged annually from the glacier (Favier et al. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 364, 1637-1655 (2006). 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. Geophysical Research Letters 31, L18402 (2004). This ice stream is unlikely to collapse in our lifetime – but the same cannot be said for future generations. Pine Island Glacier flows at rates of up to 4000 m per year 2. Geology 39, 691-694 (2011). Four months later, the IceBridge team has mapped the crack in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in a way that allows glaciologists and the rest of us to fly through the icy canyon. West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse effect – threat of disaster. It can dive to 1600 m and travel 400 km, and it has a clever collision avoidance system. Bamber, J.L., Riva, R.E.M., Vermeersen, B.L.A. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/is-pine-island-glacier-the-weak-underbelly-of-the-west-antarctic-ice-sheet/. Rignot, E. Ice-shelf changes in Pine Island Bay, Antarctica, 1947-2000. View All Images in This Event: Pine Island Glacier in Retreat. The acceleration stretches the glacier, causing the thinning and likely making the ice more prone to crevassing (cracking) “upstream.”. Darkness engulfs the poles during winter, and in months when there is ample sunlight, clouds can obscure the view. & Cornford, S.L. The U.S. National Ice Center assigns names to sizeable icebergs depending on the quadrant of Antarctica in which the berg was first sighted. Quaternary Science Reviews 38, 11-26 (2012). (It is possible that the calving occurred one day prior, but clouds prevented a clear look.) 2014; Rignot et al. Mercer, J.H. Between Thwaites and Pine Island, the amount of ice lost from Antarctica’s ice shelves is … The glacier, known as Pine Island, is considered one of the fastest retreating glaciers in Antarctica, where the climate is changing rapidly. In the past 20 years, Pine Island Glacier's grounding line, the location where the glacier leaves bedrock and meets the ocean, has retreated at a rate of more than 1 kilometer a year. It is visible here on November 7, 2018, as observed by Landsat 8. Hughes, T. A simple holistic hypothesis for the self-destruction of ice sheets. This threshold has yet to be passed. Can you identify the ice shelf? In the case of bergs from Pine Island Glacier and others that start in the Amundsen and Eastern Ross seas, the names begin with “B”. Geophysical Research Letters 37, L20502 (2010). Pine Island Glacier’s unstable state is evidenced by the diminishing time between calving events; prior events this century happened in 2001, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018. 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. 24. 17. Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica, and drains much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. At the end of October 2018, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite observed the glacier letting go of a huge chunk of ice. Bindschadler explained that a shrinking outlet glacier is usually doing three things: thinning (mostly at the seaward edge), retreating, and accelerating. 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. 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. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Pine Island Glacier In mid-October 2011, NASA scientists working in Antarctica discovered a massive crack across the Pine Island Glacier, a major ice stream that drains the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Joughin, I., Smith, B.E. Wingham, D.J., Wallis, D.W. & Shepherd, A. Spatial and temporal evolution of Pine Island Glacier thinning, 1995-2006. Sensitivity of 21st century sea level to ocean-induced thinning of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. The berg had an area of 185 square kilometers. Owing to their extremely remote location, satellites play a critical role in measuring and monitoring Antarctic glaciology – revealing the timing and pace of glacial retreat in Antarctica. Even though the text under the picture says ‘Simplified cartoon of a tributary glacier feeding into an ice shelf’, it is misleading. By Youtube user pikff1. It reached its current position around 10,000 years ago27. Cryosphere 3, 125-131 (2009). It flows, together with Thwaites Ice Stream, into the Amundsen Sea embayment in West Antarctica, and the two ice streams together drain ~5% of the Antarctic Ice Sheet 1. Rignot, E., Jacobs, S., Mouginot, J. If you zoom in far enough, you’ll be able to see the huge crack in the ice shelf. Hughes T. (1981). That's why researchers decided to take a closer look to see exactly what was causing this increased melting. Extending for 19 miles (30 kilometers), the crack was 260 feet (80 meters) wide and 195 feet … Rignot, E. Changes in ice dynamics and mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet. Images were acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite from 2000 to 2019. April 9, 2019. Note article at Realclimate. Nature Geoscience 4, 519-523 (2011). The cracks, like the one visible in this image from March 8, 2015, were a precursor to further retreat of the ice front. New rifts were already visible in satellite images on November 2018. Flight Center, NASA Earth Observatory (2012, February 29). This iceberg was finally calved in July 2013. This ice shelf collapsed after 10600 years ago28, when warmer waters flowed onto the continental shelf. Annals of Glaciology 34, 277-282 (2002). Around this time, Pine Island Glacier started to shed smaller icebergs more frequently. Nature Geoscience 3, 468-472 (2010). You have probably noticed that each iceberg has the letter “B,” in its name. Pine Island Glacier is a cause for concern, because it’s thinning rapidly, steepening, accelerating and receding. NASA Goddard Space Go to top or jump to Marine Ice Sheet Instability. Journal of Glaciology 27: 518-525. Schoof, C. Ice sheet grounding line dynamics: Steady states, stability, and hysteresis. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 1829-1845 (2011). The Pine Island Glacier currently acts as a plug that holds back the immense West Antarctic Ice Sheet, whose melting ice contributes to rising sea levels. An image from MODIS on the Aqua satellite first showed Iceberg B-27 on September 28, 2007. Under the A1B “Business as Usual” emissions scenario from the IPCC (2.6°C warming by 2100), Gladstone et al. Pine Island Glacier drains much of the marine-based West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and it has a configuration susceptible to rapid disintegration and recession. Pine Island … Using Landsat 7 data showing before and after. But once again, the calving might have happened some days before under cloud cover. The pattern indicated stresses at the center of the ice shelf. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. About one year ago, in Antarctica, the Pine Island Glacier calved an iceberg about 100 sq. Only a handful of scientists have ever set foot on its ice. It is important that we take a longer-term perspective of the current changes observed on Pine Island Glacier. Rott, H., Rack, W., Skvarca, P. & De Angelis, H. Northern Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica: further retreat after collapse. Latitude: -75° 09' 60.00" S. Longitude: -100° 00' 0.00" W. Read about Pine Island Glacier in the Wikipedia Satellite map of … On September 28, 2017, the OLI on Landsat 8 acquired this image of the recently calved Iceberg B-44. miles in size—4.5x the size of Manhattan. 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. Jacobs, S.S., Jenkins, A., Giulivi, C.F. "Pine Island Glacier is a major outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The first reference to this being the weak underbelly is Hughes (1981). Story by Kathryn Hansen. If icebergs calve off at a rate that matches the glacier’s acceleration, the ice front stays in the same place. The rift continued to spread across the glacier until it finally calved on November 9, 2001. It is possible that these fractures could spawn a new iceberg in 2019. Rignot, E., Bamber, J.L., van den Broeke, M.R., Davis, C., Li, Y., van de Berg, W.J. This gives a total of 33 to 132 cm of global total sea level rise by 2100. The white dots show how particles move with the ice which are initially randomly distributed over the ice surface. Dates are March 6, 2000 and January 4, 2001. In Greenland, the locations were: 79° North and Zachariae Glaciers, Jakobshan Isbrae, North East Greenland Ice Stream, Petermann Glacier. Is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsing? Free online lecture: The Glaciers are melting: What happens next? For example, data collected during science flights in 2009 led researchers to discover a deep-water channel (map below) that could funnel warm water to the glacier’s underbelly and melt it from below. The melting ice of the glacier flow into the Pine Island Bay in the Amundsen Sea of Antarctica. It is, along with neighboring Thwaites Glacier, one of the main pathways for ice entering the Amundsen Sea from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and one the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica. Another large iceberg recently broke off Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. 28. As anticipated, Pine Island Glacier, known as PIG for short, in Antarctica has just spawned a huge iceberg. Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5% of global sea level rise. Editor’s Note: Earth Observatory would like to thank the following scientists for help with image interpretation: Eric Rignot/JPL, Robert Bindschadler/NASA GSFC (emeritus), Christopher Shuman, UMBC/NASA GSFC, and Chris Readinger/U.S. Calibrated prediction of Pine Island Glacier retreat during the 21st and 22nd centuries with a coupled flowline model. Science 324, 901-903 (2009). Change 3, 424-427. Snow and Ice 2014) and that it may continue to change rapidly over the next decades (Seroussi et al. Pine Island Glacier (PIG) is a large ice stream flowing west-northwest along the south side of the Hudson Mountains into Pine Island Bay, Amundsen Sea, Antarctica. 9. Post-LGM deglaciation in Pine Island Bay, West Antarctica. Quaternary Science Reviews 21, 1879-1897 (2002). NASA Earth Observatory map by Jesse Allen, based on a model by Michael Studinger of NASA IceBridge and gravity data from Columbia University. & Davies, B.J. B-35 had drifted farther from the ice front. As the ice shelf thins, more water is able to circulate beneath it22, exacerbating the problem and encouraging further melting. The behemoth measured 42 kilometers long and 17 kilometers wide, an area of 714 square kilometers. The ice sheet in this area is grounded up to 2000 m below sea level, making it intrinsically unstable6 and susceptible to rapid melting at its base, and to rapid migration of the grounding line up the ice stream7 (see Marine Ice Sheet Instability). West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse – the fall and rise of a paradigm. Located near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula—the “thumb” of the continent—the glacier lies more than 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) from the tip of South America. Scientists often use radar and thermal imagery to get a better look under these less-optimal conditions. 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. Geophysical Research Letters 36, L17501 (2009). The ice stream is heavily-crevassed and dangerous, so walking on it is difficult. Earth Timelapse is a global, zoomable time-lapse video of the entire planet, from 1984 to now. Scott, J.B.T., Gudmundsson, G.H., Smith, A.M., Bingham, R.G., Pritchard, H.D. Unlike previous cracks, these originated from the center of the glacier and propagated outward toward the margins. 11. Pinpointing the exact birthdate of icebergs using natural color images can be a challenge. 7. The grounding line of the ice stream retreated rapidly following ice-shelf collapse26. & van Meijgaard, E. Recent Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional climate modelling. An iceberg the size of Malta broke off the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica. Science (2011). 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. Last month, scientists also recorded unusually warm water beneath the Thwaites Glacier, a neighbour to Pine Island. Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica. 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. Notes From the Field: Pine Island Glacier 2011. In August 2015, the U.S. National Ice Center reported that a calving event had occurred in the darkness of winter, likely in late July. Nature 484, 502-505 (2012). 18. It’s a dangerous business; several iterations of Autosub have been lost under the ice. NASA’s Operation IceBridge flew over the berg that same day. Journal of Glaciology 57, 397-406 (2011). An expert judgement assessment of future sea level rise from the ice sheets. 27. Pine Island Glacier is currently flowing very quickly and it is accelerating, causing thinning. Inland thinning of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica. Meltwater production underneath the ice shelf increased by 50% from 1994 to 2011; this increased melting results from stronger sub-ice-shelf circulation. If the ice isn’t in fact that surprisingly low density, I would suggest you correct that. 2. hence that the ice is breaking of because of water pressure from below. NASA Earth Observatory image by Holli Riebeek, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. It calved a large iceberg in 2001, and in 2011 a huge rift developed on the ice shelf. 2008, you can see that mass losses from Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier dominate Antarctic Ice Sheet ice losses. Bamber, J. L., and Aspinall, W. P. (2013). Landsat 8 captured this view on November 13, 2013. That’s shorter than a cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles, but there are no runways on the glacier and no infrastructure. Science (2013). & Anderson, J.B. Reconstruction of the West Antarctic ice sheet in Pine Island Bay during the Last Glacial Maximum and its subsequent retreat history. & Dutrieux, P. Stronger ocean circulation and increased melting under Pine Island Glacier ice shelf. Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 … The ice stream continued to recede from 16,400 to 12,300 years ago, controlled by global sea level rise. It flows, together with Thwaites Ice Stream, into the Amundsen Sea embayment in West Antarctica, and the two ice streams together drain ~5% of the Antarctic Ice Sheet1. 19. “The process of how a large outlet glacier like Pine Island ‘shrinks’ has some interesting twists,” said Bob Bindschadler, an emeritus NASA glaciologist who landed on Pine Island Glacier’s ice shelf in 2008. Pine Island Glacier has a crack tens of kilometers long and is one of Antarctica's fastest flowing rivers of ice, moving 4,000 meters a year, according to the report. These numerical computer models indicate that annual rates of sea level rise from Pine Island Glacier could reach 2.7 cm per 100 years2. Kirshner, A.E., Anderson, J.B., Jakobsson, M., O’Regan, M., Majewski, W. & Nitsche, F.O. According to the U.S. National Ice Center, this iceberg, named B-46, has an area of 87 square miles. The event produced a number of sizeable icebergs including B-41, which was still close to the shelf when this image was acquired on November 26, 2015. That was about to change. The chunk broke off from the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, which helps connect the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with the ocean, the agency says. Sometime between November 9 and November 11, 2013, a large iceberg separated from the front of Pine Island Glacier. “The weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet”. This photo, shot by NASA science writer Kate Ramsayer during a research flight on November 7, 2018, shows sea ice between Pine Island Glacier and the newly calved Iceberg B-46. The largest piece, named Iceberg B-46, spanned 226 square kilometers. But over the long term at Pine Island, you can see that the ice front has retreated inland, which means the calving rate has increased more than the glacier has accelerated. A fast-flowing ice stream Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica. Learn how your comment data is processed. De Angelis, H. & Skvarca, P. Glacier surge after ice shelf collapse. 8. Scientists think the change in calving frequency is likely related to the thinning of the ice shelf. Nature Clim. The image above shows a clear view from October 15, 2007. & Holland, D.M. Glasser, N.F., Scambos, T.A., Bohlander, J.A., Truffer, M., Pettit, E.C. Science 291, 862-864 (2001). National/Naval Ice Center. Pritchard, H.D., Ligtenberg, S.R.M., Fricker, H.A., Vaughan, D.G., van den Broeke, M.R. 10. 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. Located near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula—the “thumb” of the continent—the glacier lies more than 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) from the tip of South America. What is the global volume of land ice and how is it changing? Pine Island Glacier ice shelf now has one of the fastest rates of ice-shelf thinning in Antarctica24,25. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 333–334, 191-199 (2012). The following images, acquired with Terra MODIS and the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, show Pine Island Glacier’s most notable calving events over the past two decades. Remote Sensing, Snow and Ice Large cracks are forming farther upstream from the ice front than ever before—even in the middle of the ice shelf, where scientists had never previously seen them grow. The Pine Island glacier "is one of the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica," according to NASA. Thinning can destabilize the shelf because the ice loses contact with points on the ocean floor that strongly influence its grounding or stability. 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. 21. & Scheuchl, B. However, this iceberg calving event is a natural process, part of how the ice shelf regularly calves – this ice shelf spawns huge icebergs every 6-10 years. Caption: Visualisation of ice flow in the Antarctic ice sheet model PISM-PIK. http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/pine-island-glacier-2013-iceberg-rift-update/ Pine Island Glacier has a large ice shelf, which supports the glacier. Pine Island Glacier flows at rates of up to 4000 m per year2. 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. Large calving events used to take place at Pine Island Glacier every four to six years. 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. 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. Pine Island Glacier calved icebergs in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018—and now, another one is getting ready to break free. It periodically, every 10 or so years, calves large icebergs – but on their own, they are not worrisome. From 12300 to 10600 years ago, there was a large ice shelf throughout the Amundsen Sea Embayment. 25. The calving of icebergs during the austral winter is not surprising. Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica, is the focus of a large observational effort to better understand how glaciers and floating ice shelves interact with the ocean. At the Last Glacial Maximum, circa 18,000 years ago, the ice stream was at the continental shelf edge27. The berg, named B-31, measured 700 square kilometers. The animation at the top of this page shows a wide view of Pine Island Glacier (PIG) and the long-term retreat of its ice front. Notice that there are times when the front appears to stay in the same place or even advance, though the overall trend is toward retreat. Science 299, 1560-1562 (2003). 2014). The glacier has lost dramatic amounts of ice over the last 25 years as the region warms due to the climate crisis. 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. & Corr, H.F.J. It is out of balance. Do we want that? Pine Island Glacier: the longer term view, difficult to assess how soon a collapse of Pine Island Glacier could occur, Antarctica’s contribution to global sea level rise, 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. Decades of investigations have given scientists a better idea of the quirks of PIG’s behavior. It suggests: 26. The Pine Island Glacier, mapped by the United States Geological Survey, is the fastest melting glacier in Antarctica. Measurements from the British Antarctic Survey’s Autosub, the intrepid sub-ice shelf explorer, help scientists understand sub-ice conditions. Huge amounts of meltwater are generated in a large cavity beneath the ice shelf. A collapse of Pine Island Glacier could occur within 1000-2000 years, raising sea levels by up to 1.5 m, but it is unlikely to contribute to more than 2.7 cm of sea level rise over the next 100 years. Nature 271, 321-325 (1978). Despite this interest, Pine Island Glacier is difficult to access. Most people will never see Pine Island Glacier in person. You can use Google Earth below to explore the ice stream. The grounding line receded by more than 20 km from 1996 to 20092. Collectively, the region contains enough vulnerable ice to raise global sea level by 1.2 meters (4 feet). 2014; McMillan et al. That’s slightly larger than the iceberg that previously separated from the glacier in September 2017. Scientists, pilots, technicians, and students working with NASA's IceBridge and NSF's Antarctic programmes tried hard for several years now to reach this glacier, set up a base, and drill through… Lowe, A.L. "It is about to calve off, and it's a huge part of the glacier. Because it is grounded in ever deeper sea water, it is vulnerable to melting at its base and rapid grounding line migration. 2. The recently calved iceberg may be 720 km2, but that’s the least of this ice stream’s worries. 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. Decline of West Antarctic Glaciers Appears Irreversible. 5. Fractures near the seaward edge cause the ice to calve off as icebergs, a normal part of life for glaciers that extend over water. Home » Antarctica » West Antarctic Ice Sheet » Pine Island Glacier, Investigating Pine Island Glacier | Why is Pine Island Glacier important? The Antarctica locations were Bindschadler Ice Stream, Lambert Ice Stream, MacAyeal Ice Stream, Pine Island Glacier, Thwaites Glacier, and an unnamed location around ~40° E 84° S. The ice shelf currently loses around 62.3 ± 5 Gigatonnes per year of ice through calving, and loses 101.2 ± 8 Gigatonnes per year through basal melting24. More recently, calving has occurred on a near-annual basis and the bergs tend to break up more easily into smaller pieces. & Le Brocq, A.M. Reassessment of the potential sea-level rise from a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. by Shaena Montanari February 11, 2019. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. 12. A rift in the glacier first became visible on September 10, 2000, in images from NASA’s new Terra satellite, but the cracking probably started in the darkness of austral winter. Ice-shelf changes in Pine Island Bay, Antarctica, 1947–2000. The images below show how much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, especially around Pine Island Glacier, is grounded well below sea level. It remains difficult to assess how soon a collapse of Pine Island Glacier could occur, but a new paper by Bamber and Aspinall (2013) suggest that there is a growing view that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could become unstable over the next 100 years16. Vaughan, D.G. Due to the remoteness of Pine Island Glacier, most of the information available on the ice stream comes from airborne or satellite-based measurements. The recession of the ice stream was also controlled by the presence or absence of ice shelves. 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