Friday, August 14, 2009

Antarctic glacier thinning four times faster than 10 years ago

Environment News Service: The thinning of a gigantic glacier in Antarctica is accelerating, scientists warned today, calling the loss of ice "alarming." The Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is losing ice four times as fast as it was a decade ago. The glacier, which is twice the size of Scotland, is releasing more ice into the sea than any other glacier in Antarctica.

The research also reveals that ice thinning is now occurring much further inland. At this rate scientists estimate that the main section of the glacier will have disappeared in just 100 years, six times sooner than was previously thought.

…The Pine Island Glacier is located within the most inaccessible area of Antarctica – over 1,000 km (600 miles) from the nearest research base – and was for many years overlooked. Now, scientists have been able to track the glacier's development using continuous satellite measurements over the past 15 years.

"Being able to assemble a continuous record of measurements over the past 15 years has provided us with the remarkable ability to identify both subtle and dramatic changes in ice that were previously hidden," Shepherd said….

The Pine Island Glacier in 2001, via NASA

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