This photo, shot by NASA science writer Kate Ramsayer during a research flight on November 7, 2018, shows sea ice between Pine Island Glacier and the newly calved Iceberg B-46. The chunk broke off from the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, which helps connect the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with the ocean, the agency says. The pattern indicated stresses at the center of the ice shelf. About one year ago, in Antarctica, the Pine Island Glacier calved an iceberg about 100 sq. Pine Island Glacier is currently flowing very quickly and it is accelerating, causing thinning. Pine Island Glacier has a large ice shelf, which supports the glacier. It is remote from any research bases, so flying there means making multiple short flights, making fuel depots to allow scientists to hop to the location. Learn how your comment data is processed. Do we want that? It reached its current position around 10,000 years ago27. Earth Matters: A Little More on That Ice Rift in Antarctica…. & Anderson, J.B. Reconstruction of the West Antarctic ice sheet in Pine Island Bay during the Last Glacial Maximum and its subsequent retreat history. The recently calved iceberg may be 720 km2, but that’s the least of this ice stream’s worries. Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5% of global sea level rise. Rignot, E. Changes in ice dynamics and mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet. The images below show how much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, especially around Pine Island Glacier, is grounded well below sea level. Home » Antarctica » West Antarctic Ice Sheet » Pine Island Glacier, Investigating Pine Island Glacier | Why is Pine Island Glacier important? Scambos, T., Fricker, H.A., Liu, C.-C., Bohlander, J., Fastook, J., Sargent, A., Massom, R. & Wu, A.-M. Ice shelf disintegration by plate bending and hydro-fracture: Satellite observations and model results of the 2008 Wilkins ice shelf break-ups. The largest piece, named Iceberg B-46, spanned 226 square kilometers. Only a handful of scientists have ever set foot on its ice. In the case of bergs from Pine Island Glacier and others that start in the Amundsen and Eastern Ross seas, the names begin with “B”. Geophysical Research Letters 36, L17501 (2009). New rifts were already visible in satellite images on November 2018. More recently, calving has occurred on a near-annual basis and the bergs tend to break up more easily into smaller pieces. This iceberg was finally calved in July 2013. The grounding line of the ice stream retreated rapidly following ice-shelf collapse26. Unlike previous cracks, these originated from the center of the glacier and propagated outward toward the margins. Thinning can destabilize the shelf because the ice loses contact with points on the ocean floor that strongly influence its grounding or stability. Snow and Ice “The process of how a large outlet glacier like Pine Island ‘shrinks’ has some interesting twists,” said Bob Bindschadler, an emeritus NASA glaciologist who landed on Pine Island Glacier’s ice shelf in 2008. 19. Large cracks are forming farther upstream from the ice front than ever before—even in the middle of the ice shelf, where scientists had never previously seen them grow. Scientists think the change in calving frequency is likely related to the thinning of the ice shelf. Autosub is a remotely operated vehicle, loaded with sensors that measure temperature, salinity, pressure and so on, and it can map the sea bed using downward-pointing swath bathymetry. 12. An image from MODIS on the Aqua satellite first showed Iceberg B-27 on September 28, 2007. Pine Island Glacier is located in West Antarctica, has shed yet another major iceberg. 14. Pine Island Glacier: the longer term view, difficult to assess how soon a collapse of Pine Island Glacier could occur, Antarctica’s contribution to global sea level rise, http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/pine-island-glacier-2013-iceberg-rift-update/, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/is-pine-island-glacier-the-weak-underbelly-of-the-west-antarctic-ice-sheet/, Calculating glacier ice volumes and sea level equivalents, Antarctic supraglacial lakes and ice-shelf collapse, Dealing with uncertainty: predicting future sea level rise, Degree day models: Modelling glacier melt, A introduction to the hierarchy of ice-sheet models, The role of debris cover on glacier ablation, Introduction to glaciated valley landsystems, Cirque glaciation landsystem of upland Britain, Subpolar landsystems of James Ross Island, Alpine icefield landsystem of upland Britain, Plateau icefield landsystem of upland Britain, Quantifying ice sheet thinning using cosmogenic nuclide ages, Precision and accuracy in glacial geology, Ice stream initiation on the northern Antarctic Peninsula, Geophysical Surveys: The Gamburtsev Mountains, Glacial geomorphology of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, The westerly winds and the Patagonian Ice Sheet, Glaciolacustrine Landforms in Patagonia, Chile, Introduction to the Glaciation of Britain, The LGM British-Irish Ice Sheet: an introduction, Shelf-edge margins of the British-Irish Ice Sheet, Unlocking ice-flow pathways using glacial erratics, Introduction to the Glacial Landsystems of the Younger Dryas glaciation of Britain, Teaching resources on the last British-Irish Ice Sheet, Post-16 education and A-Level content on AntarcticGlaciers, A-Level Geography Fieldwork Investigation. | Pine Island Glacier ice shelf | Pine Island Glacier: the longer term view | Conclusions | References | Comments |. 2. hence that the ice is breaking of because of water pressure from below. The cracks, like the one visible in this image from March 8, 2015, were a precursor to further retreat of the ice front. NASA’s Operation IceBridge flew over the berg that same day. 25. NASA Goddard Space & van Meijgaard, E. Recent Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional climate modelling. Due to the remoteness of Pine Island Glacier, most of the information available on the ice stream comes from airborne or satellite-based measurements. Because it is grounded in ever deeper sea water, it is vulnerable to melting at its base and rapid grounding line migration. Inland thinning of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica. Pine Island Glacier: Satellite animation mid-2017 to Feb-2020 Date: February 11, 2020 Author: adrianluckman Updated animation showing the last three calving events as seen by ESA’s Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar. Post-LGM deglaciation in Pine Island Bay, West Antarctica. Under the A1B “Business as Usual” emissions scenario from the IPCC (2.6°C warming by 2100), Gladstone et al. It periodically, every 10 or so years, calves large icebergs – but on their own, they are not worrisome. An iceberg the size of Malta broke off the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica. You can use Google Earth below to explore the ice stream. But over the long term at Pine Island, you can see that the ice front has retreated inland, which means the calving rate has increased more than the glacier has accelerated. Rignot, E., Mouginot, J. Pine Island Glacier’s unstable state is evidenced by the diminishing time between calving events; prior events this century happened in 2001, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Pine Island Glacier is of interest to scientists because it is changing rapidly; it is thinning, accelerating and receding3, all of which contribute directly to sea level, and its future under a warming climate is uncertain. Pine Island Glacier flows at rates of up to 4000 m per year2. Change 3, 424-427. These numerical computer models indicate that annual rates of sea level rise from Pine Island Glacier could reach 2.7 cm per 100 years2. By October 15, fragments had already fallen below 70 square kilometers (20 square nautical miles)—the minimum size required for tracking by the U.S. National Ice Center. Pine Island Glacier ice shelf periodically calves huge icebergs. As the ice shelf thins, more water is able to circulate beneath it22, exacerbating the problem and encouraging further melting. Editor’s Note: Earth Observatory would like to thank the following scientists for help with image interpretation: Eric Rignot/JPL, Robert Bindschadler/NASA GSFC (emeritus), Christopher Shuman, UMBC/NASA GSFC, and Chris Readinger/U.S. Ice-shelf changes in Pine Island Bay, Antarctica, 1947–2000. De Angelis, H. & Skvarca, P. Glacier surge after ice shelf collapse. It is, along with neighboring Thwaites Glacier, one of the main pathways for ice entering the Amundsen Sea from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and one the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica. & Skvarca, P. Glacier acceleration and thinning after ice shelf collapse in the Larsen B embayment, Antarctica. Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 … 26. 3. Sea ice keeps ships away, making it difficult to access the ice stream from the ocean. Most people will never see Pine Island Glacier in person. It’s a dangerous business; several iterations of Autosub have been lost under the ice. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. 5. The above image is a still frame captured from a three-dimensional, virtual flight through the new rift in the Pine Island Glacier. Nature Geosci 1, 106-110 (2008). Pine Island Glacier ice shelf now has one of the fastest rates of ice-shelf thinning in Antarctica24,25. Rignot, E., Bamber, J.L., van den Broeke, M.R., Davis, C., Li, Y., van de Berg, W.J. Caption: Visualisation of ice flow in the Antarctic ice sheet model PISM-PIK. They can measure changes in ice extent and thinning from satellites4,5, and they have fired javelins loaded with sensors onto the ice surface, into places with too many crevasses for people to travel. NASA Earth Observatory map by Lauren Dauphin, using Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) data from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 364, 1637-1655 (2006). The image above shows a clear view from October 15, 2007. It rapidly shrank back from around 16,400 years ago, when rising sea levels made this ice stream more buoyant, causing lift-off, decoupling from the ice sheet’s bed, and recession. Nature Geoscience 3, 468-472 (2010). In August 2015, the U.S. National Ice Center reported that a calving event had occurred in the darkness of winter, likely in late July. Fractures near the seaward edge cause the ice to calve off as icebergs, a normal part of life for glaciers that extend over water. Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica, is the focus of a large observational effort to better understand how glaciers and floating ice shelves interact with the ocean. Pine Island Glacier flows at rates of up to 4000 m per year 2. Bamber, J.L., Riva, R.E.M., Vermeersen, B.L.A. Hughes T. (1981). & Scheuchl, B. The calving of icebergs during the austral winter is not surprising. Earth Timelapse is a global, zoomable time-lapse video of the entire planet, from 1984 to now. February 11–15. Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1992 to 2017. It is possible that these fractures could spawn a new iceberg in 2019. Journal of Glaciology 48, 247-256 (2002). Bindschadler explained that a shrinking outlet glacier is usually doing three things: thinning (mostly at the seaward edge), retreating, and accelerating. Rift in Antarctic Glacier: A Unique Chance to Study Ice Shelf Retreat. Can you identify the ice shelf? 10. Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica. 2. Joughin, I., Smith, B.E. Free online lecture: The Glaciers are melting: What happens next? Wingham, D.J., Wallis, D.W. & Shepherd, A. Spatial and temporal evolution of Pine Island Glacier thinning, 1995-2006. Just watch how fast the ice flows in the video below, and notice especially how the ice speeds up when it reaches the floating ice shelf. & Le Brocq, A.M. Reassessment of the potential sea-level rise from a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. B-35 had drifted farther from the ice front. Nature 484, 502-505 (2012). (It is possible that the calving occurred one day prior, but clouds prevented a clear look.) The animation at the top of this page shows a wide view of Pine Island Glacier (PIG) and the long-term retreat of its ice front. Landsat 8 captured this view on November 13, 2013. & Holland, D.M. http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/pine-island-glacier-2013-iceberg-rift-update/ “This is indicative of a progressive collapse of the ice shelf,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The ice shelf around Pine Island Glacier is currently thinning, and it is warmed from below by Circumpolar Deep Water that flows onto the continental shelf22,23. Pine Island Glacier is buttressed by a large, floating ice shelf, which helps to stabilise the glacier, but this ice shelf is itself thinning and recently calved a huge iceberg. 28. However, scientists have several ingenious ways in which they can observe changes to this fragile, important ice stream. Go to top or jump to Marine Ice Sheet Instability. The velocity is well above that required to maintain mass balance – so the ice stretches longitudinally, and thins vertically3. The U.S. National Ice Center assigns names to sizeable icebergs depending on the quadrant of Antarctica in which the berg was first sighted. Pinpointing the exact birthdate of icebergs using natural color images can be a challenge. Science 291, 862-864 (2001). (2012) predict recession over the next 200 years with huge uncertainty over the rate of retreat, and full collapse of the trunk of Pine Island Glacier during the 22nd Century remains a possibility15. 2014; McMillan et al. Rignot, E., Jacobs, S., Mouginot, J. Releasing a huge iceberg, by itself, is a normal process, unrelated to warming, but increased calving may occur in the future if the ice shelf continues to thin, which would make it susceptible to plate bending and hydrofracture processes21. The glacier, known as Pine Island, is considered one of the fastest retreating glaciers in Antarctica, where the climate is changing rapidly. What is concerning is the current intense melting, thinning and glacier acceleration observed on Pine Island Glacier ice shelf22. What is the global volume of land ice and how is it changing? Science 324, 901-903 (2009). Extending for 19 miles (30 kilometers), the crack was 260 feet (80 meters) wide and 195 feet … Owing to their extremely remote location, satellites play a critical role in measuring and monitoring Antarctic glaciology – revealing the timing and pace of glacial retreat in Antarctica. 17. Remote Sensing. It’s about eight times the size of New York, or half the size of Greater London, at 720 km2. 2014) and that it may continue to change rapidly over the next decades (Seroussi et al. If the ice isn’t in fact that surprisingly low density, I would suggest you correct that. This melts the ice shelf from below24, and this melting is probably the cause of the observed ice stream thinning, acceleration and grounding line recession25, which is contributing to a sea level rise of 1.2 mm per decade3. Pine Island Glacier could collapse – stagnate and retreat far up into the bay, resulting in rapid sea level rise – within the next few centuries, raising global sea levels by 1.5 m11,12, out of a total of 3.3 m from the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet13. West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse effect – threat of disaster. Since the early 1990s, the Pine Island Glacier’s ice velocity has increased dramatically to values which exceed 10 m a day. 22. Nature Geoscience 4, 519-523 (2011). 11. Located near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula—the “thumb” of the continent—the glacier lies more than 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) from the tip of South America. In the past 20 years, Pine Island Glacier's grounding line, the location where the glacier leaves bedrock and meets the ocean, has retreated at a rate of more than 1 kilometer a year. It suggests: Yet in recent years, this ice shelf has rapidly thinned and accelerated. The ice sheet in this area is grounded up to 2000 m below sea level, making it intrinsically unstable6 and susceptible to rapid melting at its base, and to rapid migration of the grounding line up the ice stream7 (see Marine Ice Sheet Instability). Most people will never see Pine Island Glacier in person. Jenkins, A., Dutrieux, P., Jacobs, S.S., McPhail, S.D., Perrett, J.R., Webb, A.T. & White, D. Observations beneath Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica and implications for its retreat. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 112(2007). In Greenland, the locations were: 79° North and Zachariae Glaciers, Jakobshan Isbrae, North East Greenland Ice Stream, Petermann Glacier. Ice Flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. That's why researchers decided to take a closer look to see exactly what was causing this increased melting. Despite this interest, Pine Island Glacier is difficult to access. Pine Island Glacier calved icebergs in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018—and now, another one is getting ready to break free. 15. "It looked to me incredibly unstable," British Antarctic Survey's Dr. Joanne Johnson told Sky News. Pine Island loses an estimated 45 billion tons of ice each year. 4. That’s shorter than a cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles, but there are no runways on the glacier and no infrastructure. From ice-shelf tributary to tidewater glacier: continued rapid glacier recession, acceleration and thinning of Röhss Glacier following the 1995 collapse of the Prince Gustav Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/is-pine-island-glacier-the-weak-underbelly-of-the-west-antarctic-ice-sheet/. The Antarctica locations were Bindschadler Ice Stream, Lambert Ice Stream, MacAyeal Ice Stream, Pine Island Glacier, Thwaites Glacier, and an unnamed location around ~40° E 84° S. If you zoom in far enough, you’ll be able to see the huge crack in the ice shelf. 8. Mercer, J.H. It flows, together with Thwaites Ice Stream, into the Amundsen Sea embayment in West Antarctica, and the two ice streams together drain ~5% of the Antarctic Ice Sheet1. Latitude: -75° 09' 60.00" S. Longitude: -100° 00' 0.00" W. Read about Pine Island Glacier in the Wikipedia Satellite map of … April 9, 2019. Increased rate of acceleration on Pine Island Glacier strongly coupled to changes in gravitational driving stress. Story by Kathryn Hansen. Flight Center, NASA Earth Observatory (2012, February 29). This ice shelf collapsed after 10600 years ago28, when warmer waters flowed onto the continental shelf. Annals of Glaciology 34, 277-282 (2002). Image development and design by Lauren Dauphin. View All Images in This Event: Pine Island Glacier in Retreat. Notice that there are times when the front appears to stay in the same place or even advance, though the overall trend is toward retreat. That was about to change. Shepherd, A., Wingham, D.J., Mansley, J.A.D. The glacier has lost dramatic amounts of ice over the last 25 years as the region warms due to the climate crisis. While this outlet glacier is just one of many around the perimeter of Antarctica, data collected from the ground, air, and space confirm that Pine Island is worth extra attention. 7. Nature Clim. & Cornford, S.L. Another large iceberg recently broke off Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. In the figure below, from Rignot et al. Scott, J.B.T., Gudmundsson, G.H., Smith, A.M., Bingham, R.G., Pritchard, H.D. It seems that the glacier is capable of very rapid recession within millennial timescales27, and that the dynamics between ice shelf and ice stream are intrinsically linked. Some studies have suggested that the entire main trunk of Pine Island Glacier could unground and become afloat within 100 years14, but more recent modelling efforts suggest that much longer timescales are needed to unground the entire trunk2. NASA Earth Observatory map by Jesse Allen, based on a model by Michael Studinger of NASA IceBridge and gravity data from Columbia University. Rignot, E. Ice-shelf changes in Pine Island Bay, Antarctica, 1947-2000. Check out some photographs from that flight here. However, this iceberg calving event is a natural process, part of how the ice shelf regularly calves – this ice shelf spawns huge icebergs every 6-10 years. West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse – the fall and rise of a paradigm. 24. The Pine Island Glacier currently acts as a plug that holds back the immense West Antarctic Ice Sheet, whose melting ice contributes to rising sea levels. Calibrated prediction of Pine Island Glacier retreat during the 21st and 22nd centuries with a coupled flowline model. NASA Earth Observatory image by Holli Riebeek, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Ice Shelf Melting Around Antarctica. The recession of the ice stream was also controlled by the presence or absence of ice shelves. The melting ice of the glacier flow into the Pine Island Bay in the Amundsen Sea of Antarctica. That’s slightly larger than the iceberg that previously separated from the glacier in September 2017. Notes From the Field: Pine Island Glacier 2011. If you examine the MODIS imagery are you sure about the July 2013 calving date, no separation occurred until November 2013? On the ice-covered edge of a remote West Antarctic bay, the continent’s most imperiled glaciers threaten to redraw Earth’s coastlines. Hughes, T. A simple holistic hypothesis for the self-destruction of ice sheets. Glasser, N.F., Scambos, T.A., Bohlander, J.A., Truffer, M., Pettit, E.C. These data suggest that the recession of this ice stream was largely controlled by sea level rise, with a 55 m in sea level rise during deglaciation resulting in 225 km of grounding-line recession26. Images were acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite from 2000 to 2019. The following images, acquired with Terra MODIS and the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, show Pine Island Glacier’s most notable calving events over the past two decades. Breakup Week. As anticipated, Pine Island Glacier, known as PIG for short, in Antarctica has just spawned a huge iceberg. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. Sensitivity of 21st century sea level to ocean-induced thinning of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. Rott, H., Rack, W., Skvarca, P. & De Angelis, H. Northern Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica: further retreat after collapse. The calving event is not unusual for this glacier. The melting of this glacier accounts for 25% of the ice loss in Antarctica. Schoof, C. Ice sheet grounding line dynamics: Steady states, stability, and hysteresis. Low lying cloud often makes flying hazardous. Note article at Realclimate. & Vaughan, D.G. According to the U.S. National Ice Center, this iceberg, named B-46, has an area of 87 square miles. Last month, scientists also recorded unusually warm water beneath the Thwaites Glacier, a neighbour to Pine Island. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Pine Island … It is out of balance. Cryosphere 3, 125-131 (2009). Geophysical Research Letters 37, L20502 (2010). 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