Climate Change: Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier inching towards sea collapse at fast rate

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June 12, 2021 1:00 PM

The Pine Island glacier in West Antarctica in the Southern hemisphere has been losing its snow-mass at an extremely fast rate since 2017.

Moon further said that successive studies have confirmed that evolution of the Antarctica continent is critically dependent on Greenhouse gas emissions responsible for warming of the planet. (Representative image)

Amidst rising global warming levels, climate scientists are losing their sleep over a critical Antarctica glacier that is moving towards the sea at a faster pace than ever before. The Pine Island glacier in West Antarctica in the Southern hemisphere has been losing its snow-mass at an extremely fast rate since 2017. A critical ice shelf in the vicinity of the glacier that stops the glacier from collapsing into the sea is also showing signs of extreme stress and breaking up bit by bit, news agency Associated Press reported. The Pine Island glacier collapse, scientists fear, might collapse into the sea earlier than predicted by several centuries and cause havoc across the world. As per a study conducted by Friday’s Science Advances, the critical piece of ice shelf which is preventing the glacier collapse has retreated by about 20 kilometer between 2017 and 2020.

Study lead author Ian Joughin who is also a glaciologist at the University of Washington told AP that as per estimates 20 percent of the ice shelf has already been lost. Joughin also said that it would not be surprising that the whole ice shelf succumbs to the glacier within the next few years. The study also found that the main Pine Island glacier has been inching towards the sea at a 12 percent faster rate since 2017.

Why Pine Island collapse is a big deal?
Pine island glacier is one of the two major glaciers in Western Antarctica with the other being Thwaites glacier. The Pine Island has been estimated to contain as much as 180 trillions of ice which can cause the sea level rise by a whopping 50 cm. Sea level rise by about 50 cm is many times more than what is needed to submerge most islands and coastal cities around the world such as Mumbai, Singapore, among others.

University of California Irvine ice scientist Isabella Velicogna told AP that the melting of Pine Island and Thwaites are the biggest worry for the scientists community. Velicogna also said that once the two glaciers collapse into the sea, the rest of West Antarctica will follow. Twila Moon, a National Snow and Ice Data scientist, told AP that the development signifies the vulnerability of the Antarctica continent which is a major reservoir for potential sea level rise. Moon further said that successive studies have confirmed that evolution of the Antarctica continent is critically dependent on Greenhouse gas emissions responsible for warming of the planet.

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