Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers contribute 5 percent of sea-level rise
Two Antarctic that has kept scientists awake for long hours at night is breaking free from the restrain that have hemmed them in, increasing the risk of widespread sea-level rise.
The Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers which are located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica already contribute around 5 percent of global sea-level rise. Thwaites survival was considered so critical that the US and UK launched a multi-million dollar target research mission to the glacier, whose loss could lead to the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to raise the sea level by 10 feet.
The new findings which were published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed the satellite images. These images portrayed that a naturally occurring buffer system that prevents glaciers from flowing rapidly outward is collapsing which could lead to more ice being released into the sea in the coming years.
According to the experts, the so-called “shear margins“ where their floating ice encounters high levels of friction are gradually weakening and breaking into pieces. “The stresses that slow down the glacier, they are no longer in place, so the glacier is speeding up,” said Stef Lhermitte, a satellite expert at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherland.
The ice shelves have been in a very bad state which is bad news about the planet's ice. When the ice shelves are damaged, their buttressing effect is reduced and the ice streams speed up and raise sea level. This speedup increases damage which is not good.
Lhermitte has calculated and stated that over the past six years, the western and central parts of the Pine Island ice shelf have shrunken in size by 30% from about 1,500 square miles in size down to closer 1,000 square miles. This means that an area about the size of Los Angeles has been lost.
Lhermitte added, “These are the first signs we see that Pine Island ice shelf is disappearing. This damage is difficult to heal.”