It has been a particularly rough week for the Antarctic. Not only did we receive word that warm water was discovered under the Thwaites Glacier in the western part of the continent, but on the Antarctica Peninsula the warmest temperature ever recorded occurred over the weekend. Now, hot on the heels of those revelations, come the news that a massive iceberg has broken off of the Pine Island Glacier, indicating that another fragile piece of ice may be hitting its tipping point.
Located not far from the Thwaites Glacier, Pine Island has been closely watched in recent years because of the threats that warming temperatures bring to the glaciers there. Over the weekend, researchers god a sense of what is happening there when a chunk of ice 120 miles (193 km) in length broke free and began drifting out to sea. That’s three times the size of the city of San Francisco, just to put things into perspective. Thankfully, the large iceberg soon broke up into much smaller chunks as it drifted out into the Southern Ocean, although some of those pieces are still large enough to be of concern for passing shipping traffic.
Often considered to be one of the most threatened glaciers in the Antarctic, scientists have been watching the Pine Island ice for years. Like the Thwaites, it holds back a considerable amount of water, which could have a devastating impact on the Earth’s coastlines moving forward. It is estimated that should these two glaciers melt — and all indications are that they have started to do just that —the oceans of the world would rise by as much as 4 feet (1.2 meters). Such a catastrophic shift is still years away, but it could still be incredibly damaging to cities across the globe.
In a press release announcing the latest development, Mark Drinkwater, a senior scientist and cryosphere specialist at the European Space Agency, said, “What is unsettling is that the daily data stream [from satellites] reveals the dramatic pace at which climate is redefining the face of Antarctica.”
In other words, predictions that once seemed like they were decades away from happening are now upon us and by most accounts they are speeding up. What is currently occurring in the Antarctic (as well as the Arctic) is without a doubt the result of climate change and global warming. Those are words that were off limits for way too long and now that we can finally start to talk about these things more openly, it may already be too late.
Find out more here.