Global warming has been a cause of concern for scientists around the world for decades. But they are losing their sleep now because of the critical Antarctica glacier. This is because the glacier is moving towards the sea at a faster pace than expected. Analysis of satellite images shows that the ice shelf that has been holding back glaciers in Antarctica has gradually thinned. The images show that the Pine Island glacier in West Antarctica in the Southern hemisphere has been shedding snow mass at a faster than expected rate. Floating ice shelves play an important role in holding back the larger grounded mass of the glacier. But the eventual collapse of the Pine Island glaciers into the sea could happen much earlier because of the weakening of the edge. The researchers of the University of Washington and the British Antarctic Survey reached to a conclusion after analyzing satellite images. Their study has been published in the open-access journal Science Advances.
“There are chances that things could change on Pine Island quicker than expected. We may not be able to observe the change at a slow pace,” lead author Ian Joughin said. Joughin is a glaciologist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. “Our study found that we are heading to an irreversible collapse. But we expecting this to happen at a fairly measured pace. However, things could be much more abrupt if the rest of the ice shelf melts.” According to reports, there is approximately 180 trillion tons of ice at the Pine Island glacier. If this melts, it could result in a global sea-level rise of 1.6 feet or 0.5 meters. The ice in the glacier has already contributed to the sea-level rise at Antarctica. It is causing a rise of one-sixth of a millimetre in the sea-level on a yearly basis. This is equivalent to two-thirds of an inch per century.
But researchers fear that this rate can increase. They said that sea-level could increase by several feet globally over the next few centuries if this glacier along with neighboring Thwaites Glacier melts at a faster pace. They have been the center of attraction of researchers in recent decades because of the melting of underside ice because of warmer ocean currents. Scientists found that the ice shelf of Pine Island dramatically lost one-fifth of its area from 2017 to 2020. European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites captured it. They also said that the recent changes are due to the glacier losing the outer part of the ice.