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Pine Island Glacier Committed To “Irreversible” Decline

13.01.2014 15:51 Age: 4 yrs

Barely two weeks after a report in Science suggested that La Nina had slowed the melt rate of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, new research by French scientists published in Nature Climate Change suggests that the glacier may be in irreversible decline and could, on its own, contribute to a sea level rise of up to 1cm in the next 20 years. This report courtesy LGGE in France is by Gerhard Krinner.

Click to enlarge. Map of the flow of the glacier ice Pine Island in Antarctica speed (m / year), indicating the location of the study area in Antarctica. Courtesy LGGE

Click to enlarge. Retreating glacier Island Pine as simulated by the model Elmer / Ice developed and used LGGE. The blue line corresponds to the line stranding as simulated by the model is representative of the late 1990s. The red line is the modeled position in 2025. The grounding line marks the boundary between the part of the glacier resting on the continent and its downstream extension that floats on the ocean and thus contributes to rising sea levels. Image courtesy: Modis, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, US.


by Gerhard Krinner



For twenty years now, the West Antarctic has contributed significantly to the rise in sea level. Pine Island Glacier, located in the western part of Antarctica is the largest contributor to this increase: it alone represents nearly 25% of the contribution of West Antarctic melt water. The edge receded ten kilometers from the 2000s and the glacier is tending to thin more. The eastern part of Antarctica remains in equilibrium for now (that is, the amount of ice that accumulates is equal to that lost snow glaciers feeding). 


The coastal Pine Island Glacier is therefore the subject of special attention. The international team supported by LGGE (CNRS / UJF) has carefully studied the glacier to better understand its future.


Scientists have relied on threeof the latest generation of computer models of flow of the ice in the polar caps.  All three models shows that the glacier is likely ito be unstable and will continue to reced for at least forty kilometers over the next fifty years. The mass loss associated with this irreversible decline is expected to increase significantly from the average value of 20 gigatonnes per year observed during the period 1992 to 2011, up to 120 gigatonnes per year over fifty years modeled. Thus, its annual contribution to rising sea levels could rise by three to five times.This loss would result in an increase in sea level ranging between 3.5 and 10 mm in the next twenty years.





Retreat of Pine Island Glacier controlled by marine ice-sheet instability by L. Favier, G. Durand, S. L. Cornford, G. H. Gudmundsson, O. Gagliardini, F. Gillet-Chaulet, T. Zwinger, A. J. Payne & A. M. Le Brocq published in Nature Climate Change (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2094

Read the abstract and get the paper here.




Our report "Pine Island Glacier Melt Slowed By La Nina" here.