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Another Glacier Cracks in Antarctica

Another Glacier Cracks in Antarctica

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, September 25, 2017/Categories: natural history, space science, sustainability, environment, climate change

                                   Crack in Pine Island Glacier 11-4-2016, West Antarctica, (credit: NASA)

In less than 3 months, a crack seen in another massive glacier, this time in West Antarctica, has separted into an iceberg. First announced in a Twitter feed by Stef Lhermitte of the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, a piece of ice 4-times the size of Manhattan has floated away from Pine Island Glacier.


         Iceberg Separates from Pine Island Glacier West Antarctica, 9-23-2017  (credit: ESA, Stef Lhermitte)

Over multiple years, the European Space Agency has used the Sentinel II Earth observing satellite to monitor changes to the Pine Island Glacier. ESA created an animation to illustrate the degradation process where warmed ocean water reaches under the floating portion of iceshelf causing cracks to form. Colors indicate where breaks have occurred since 1992.

In an earlier 2016 statement, Earth scientists at Ohio State University said Pine Island Glacier was likely being "hollowed out from below". Their observations and predictions were published in Geophysical Letters where Ian Howat concluded:

“It’s generally accepted that it’s no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt, it’s a question of when. This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes.”

The climate models have predicted changes to Antarctica due to climate change caused ocean warming would not really begin to be seen until mid-21st Century. The models need adjusting with the lastest events just observed in Antarctica.



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