One of Antarctica’s largest glaciers is thinning four times faster than thought ten years ago, researchers have concluded after reviewing satellite images.
The records show that if the melting of the Pine Island Glacier in west Antarctica goes on accelerating at current rates, the main section will disappear in 100 years, 500 years sooner than previously thought.
The research showed that the ice surface is dropping at a rate of about 50 feet a year. The faster melting affects about 2,000 square miles of the glacier, containing enough water to raise world sea levels by about an inch, said Professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, a member of the research team.
The glacier’s melting could also expose stationary ice behind it to warm seawater, and if that ice were to melt, it could raise sea levels by another 10 inches.
The research, led by Professor Duncan Wingham at University College London and published in Geophysical Research Letters, is based on satellite observations of the glacier over 15 years.
"Being able to assemble a continuous record of measurements over the past 15 years has provided us with the remarkable ability to identify both subtle and dramatic changes in ice that were previously hidden," professor Shepherd said.