A BBC story on the new study, “The spatial and temporal evolution of Pine Island Glacier thinning, 1995 – 2006,” explains:
Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.
The rate of loss is fastest in the centre of the glacier and the concern is that if the process continues, the glacier may break up and start to affect the ice sheet further inland.
One of the authors, Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University, said that the melting from the centre of the glacier would add about 3cm to global sea level. “But the ice trapped behind it is about 20-30cm of sea level rise and as soon as we destabilise or remove the middle of the glacier we don’t know really know what’s going to happen to the ice behind it,” he told BBC News.
The last measurements taken by Antarctic research showed that the great ice sheet’s temperature had risen by up to about 3°C (5.4 °F) in the past 50 years, which is the fastest increase in the southern hemisphere.
By the way, this piece of info almost got lost in the overall report:
The Pine Island glacier is thinning 4 times faster than it was 10 years ago: “Nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.”
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