An international team of scientists analyzed satellite data and found that the Pine Island Glacier was accelerating its melting. This is due to cracks across its entire surface.
The Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest-shrinking glaciers in Antarctica, accelerated its melting between 2017 and 2020. Now a fifth of the ice shelf has broken off in the form of massive icebergs.
Researchers have noticed this trend before: the glacier accelerated its melting between 1990 and 2009, when warm ocean currents corroded the lower part of the ice shelf, destabilizing its structure and causing the glacier to lose some of its volume. This is reported in a report from the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The ice shelf is located at the sea edge of the glacier. As this ice barrier melted for two decades, the movement of the glacier towards the sea accelerated from 2.5 km to 4 km per year, the study said.
However, the researchers noted that this time the faults are associated with cracks at the surface level and deep faults. These cracks appeared in several places at once, they periodically cause the separation of huge pieces of the ice shelf.
During this time, the shelf area has decreased by about 20% – this is a loss of about 651 sq. km of the area. The rate of melting of the glacier at one of the edges has increased by 12%. The high-resolution video, which was compiled from satellite data, shows how the sides of the ice shelf are pressed against the coastline, and large cracks appear in the center of the shelf, which then suddenly break off.