Nature Clim. Yet in recent years, this ice shelf has rapidly thinned and accelerated. Nature Geoscience 3, 468-472 (2010). About one year ago, in Antarctica, the Pine Island Glacier calved an iceberg about 100 sq. Snow and Ice Science (2013). 2014; Rignot et al. It periodically, every 10 or so years, calves large icebergs – but on their own, they are not worrisome. These numerical computer models indicate that annual rates of sea level rise from Pine Island Glacier could reach 2.7 cm per 100 years2. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. “This underlies our concern that retreating outlet glaciers can ‘shrink’ rapidly,” Bindschadler said. 12. NASA Goddard Space 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”. 1. that the ice has roughly a third of the density of water (under/over water ratio of the floating blocks). Geophysical Research Letters 31, L18402 (2004). 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. Schoof, C. Ice sheet grounding line dynamics: Steady states, stability, and hysteresis. At the Last Glacial Maximum, circa 18,000 years ago, the ice stream was at the continental shelf edge27. However, scientists have several ingenious ways in which they can observe changes to this fragile, important ice stream. 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. & Padman, L. Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves. Scientists often use radar and thermal imagery to get a better look under these less-optimal conditions. 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. 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. 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. 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. Pine Island Glacier ice shelf periodically calves huge icebergs. From 12300 to 10600 years ago, there was a large ice shelf throughout the Amundsen Sea Embayment. Journal of Glaciology 27: 518-525. 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. 9. This ice shelf collapsed after 10600 years ago28, when warmer waters flowed onto the continental shelf. 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. That’s slightly larger than the iceberg that previously separated from the glacier in September 2017. Most people will never see Pine Island Glacier in person. 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. & Le Brocq, A.M. Reassessment of the potential sea-level rise from a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Rignot, E. Ice-shelf changes in Pine Island Bay, Antarctica, 1947-2000. The pattern indicated stresses at the center of the ice shelf. You can use Google Earth below to explore the ice stream. 18. NASA’s Operation IceBridge flew over the berg that same day. More recently, calving has occurred on a near-annual basis and the bergs tend to break up more easily into smaller pieces. It calved a large iceberg in 2001, and in 2011 a huge rift developed on the ice shelf. Sensitivity of 21st century sea level to ocean-induced thinning of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. 26. Nature Geoscience 4, 519-523 (2011). Note article at Realclimate. The image above shows a clear view from October 15, 2007. Extending for 19 miles (30 kilometers), the crack was 260 feet (80 meters) wide and 195 feet … Around this time, Pine Island Glacier started to shed smaller icebergs more frequently. Under the A1B “Business as Usual” emissions scenario from the IPCC (2.6°C warming by 2100), Gladstone et al. Decline of West Antarctic Glaciers Appears Irreversible. It suggests: West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse – the fall and rise of a paradigm. "Pine Island Glacier is a major outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The image above shows the iceberg on November 11, 2001. Go to top or jump to Marine Ice Sheet Instability. Hughes, T. A simple holistic hypothesis for the self-destruction of ice sheets. 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. It reached its current position around 10,000 years ago27. Bathymetric controls on calving processes at Pine Island Glacier. Quaternary Science Reviews 21, 1879-1897 (2002). 17. It is important that we take a longer-term perspective of the current changes observed on Pine Island Glacier. April 9, 2019. 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. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 1829-1845 (2011). Geophysical Research Letters 37, L20502 (2010). Earth Timelapse is a global, zoomable time-lapse video of the entire planet, from 1984 to now. As the ice shelf thins, more water is able to circulate beneath it22, exacerbating the problem and encouraging further melting. If the glacier… 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. Change 3, 424-427. Last month, scientists also recorded unusually warm water beneath the Thwaites Glacier, a neighbour to Pine Island. On the ice-covered edge of a remote West Antarctic bay, the continent’s most imperiled glaciers threaten to redraw Earth’s coastlines. "It looked to me incredibly unstable," British Antarctic Survey's Dr. Joanne Johnson told Sky News. "It is about to calve off, and it's a huge part of the glacier. 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. Rignot, E., Jacobs, S., Mouginot, J. The ice stream glacier has an extremely remote location with the nearest human inhabited research station … 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. Increased rate of acceleration on Pine Island Glacier strongly coupled to changes in gravitational driving stress. 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. Post-LGM deglaciation in Pine Island Bay, West Antarctica. | Pine Island Glacier ice shelf | Pine Island Glacier: the longer term view | Conclusions | References | Comments |. Between Thwaites and Pine Island, the amount of ice lost from Antarctica’s ice shelves is … 3. http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/pine-island-glacier-2013-iceberg-rift-update/ If icebergs calve off at a rate that matches the glacier’s acceleration, the ice front stays in the same place. 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. 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. This iceberg was finally calved in July 2013. 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. Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica, and drains much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. 28. The rift continued to spread across the glacier until it finally calved on November 9, 2001. Pine Island Glacier flows at rates of up to 4000 m per year2. However, data from Autosubs that did return indicates that more warm Circumpolar Deep Water has been in Pine Island Bay in recent summers22. That was about to change. The berg had an area of 185 square kilometers. 16. Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992 to 2017. Caption: Visualisation of ice flow in the Antarctic ice sheet model PISM-PIK. 20. 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. 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. Gladstone, R.M., Lee, V., Rougier, J., Payne, A.J., Hellmer, H., Le Brocq, A., Shepherd, A., Edwards, T.L., Gregory, J. Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. Shepherd, A., Wingham, D.J., Mansley, J.A.D. 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. 19. Home » Antarctica » West Antarctic Ice Sheet » Pine Island Glacier, Investigating Pine Island Glacier | Why is Pine Island Glacier important? 2014). 5. Another large iceberg recently broke off Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. Rignot, E. Changes in ice dynamics and mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet. Latitude: -75° 09' 60.00" S. Longitude: -100° 00' 0.00" W. Read about Pine Island Glacier in the Wikipedia Satellite map of … & Cornford, S.L. 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. Pine Island Glacier is currently flowing very quickly and it is accelerating, causing thinning. On September 28, 2017, the OLI on Landsat 8 acquired this image of the recently calved Iceberg B-44. & van Meijgaard, E. Recent Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional climate modelling. Pine Island Glacier flows at rates of up to 4000 m per year 2. Thinning can destabilize the shelf because the ice loses contact with points on the ocean floor that strongly influence its grounding or stability. Pine Island Glacier has a large ice shelf, which supports the glacier. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Breakup Week. The acceleration stretches the glacier, causing the thinning and likely making the ice more prone to crevassing (cracking) “upstream.”. Science (2011). 2014) and that it may continue to change rapidly over the next decades (Seroussi et al. 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. View All Images in This Event: Pine Island Glacier in Retreat. It is visible here on November 7, 2018, as observed by Landsat 8. 25. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Mercer, J.H. Ice Shelf Melting Around 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. Dates are March 6, 2000 and January 4, 2001. The Pine Island Glacier, mapped by the United States Geological Survey, is the fastest melting glacier in Antarctica. by Shaena Montanari February 11, 2019. Scambos, T.A., Bohlander, J.A., Shuman, C.A. What is the global volume of land ice and how is it changing? Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 … Story by Kathryn Hansen. Earth Matters: A Little More on That Ice Rift in Antarctica…. 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. Lowe, A.L. Scientists watch this glacier closely because evidence has been pointing to even faster loss of ice in the future, NASA says. Climatic Change 91, 65-79 (2008). Hughes T. (1981). 2. Nature Geosci 1, 106-110 (2008). 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. 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. Are these on-going changes unprecedented, or are they part of the normal behaviour for the glacier? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 364, 1637-1655 (2006). Despite this interest, Pine Island Glacier is difficult to access. Scientists think the change in calving frequency is likely related to the thinning of the ice shelf. 22. New rifts were already visible in satellite images on November 2018. The glacier, known as Pine Island, is considered one of the fastest retreating glaciers in Antarctica, where the climate is changing rapidly. 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. NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. De Angelis, H. & Skvarca, P. Glacier surge after ice shelf collapse. & Scheuchl, B. 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. Large calving events used to take place at Pine Island Glacier every four to six years. (It is possible that the calving occurred one day prior, but clouds prevented a clear look.) 10. 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. Sometime between November 9 and November 11, 2013, a large iceberg separated from the front of Pine Island Glacier. Even though the text under the picture says ‘Simplified cartoon of a tributary glacier feeding into an ice shelf’, it is misleading. Remote Sensing, Snow and Ice 7. Do we want that? Huge amounts of meltwater are generated in a large cavity beneath the ice shelf. 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. Measurements from the British Antarctic Survey’s Autosub, the intrepid sub-ice shelf explorer, help scientists understand sub-ice conditions. Annals of Glaciology 34, 277-282 (2002). The calving event is not unusual for this glacier. 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. 14. Pritchard, H.D., Ligtenberg, S.R.M., Fricker, H.A., Vaughan, D.G., van den Broeke, M.R. The U.S. National Ice Center assigns names to sizeable icebergs depending on the quadrant of Antarctica in which the berg was first sighted. 23. Pine Island Glacier is one of the most dynamic features of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. 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… Quaternary Science Reviews 38, 11-26 (2012). The behemoth measured 42 kilometers long and 17 kilometers wide, an area of 714 square kilometers. Because it is grounded in ever deeper sea water, it is vulnerable to melting at its base and rapid grounding line migration. Ice Flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. NASA Earth Observatory image by Holli Riebeek, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The first reference to this being the weak underbelly is Hughes (1981). This ice stream is unlikely to collapse in our lifetime – but the same cannot be said for future generations. Kirshner, A.E., Anderson, J.B., Jakobsson, M., O’Regan, M., Majewski, W. & Nitsche, F.O. An iceberg the size of Malta broke off the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica. The glacier has lost dramatic amounts of ice over the last 25 years as the region warms due to the climate crisis. Jacobs, S.S., Jenkins, A., Giulivi, C.F. (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. Rott, H., Rack, W., Skvarca, P. & De Angelis, H. Northern Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica: further retreat after collapse. Geophysical Research Letters 36, L17501 (2009). B-35 had drifted farther from the ice front. Landsat 8 captured this view on November 13, 2013. 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. 24. Joughin, I., Smith, B.E. It’s a dangerous business; several iterations of Autosub have been lost under the ice. 13. The melting ice of the glacier flow into the Pine Island Bay in the Amundsen Sea of Antarctica. 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 concerning is the current intense melting, thinning and glacier acceleration observed on Pine Island Glacier ice shelf22. & Scheuchl, B. 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. 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