Two Major Antarctic Glaciers Are Tearing Loose From Their Restraints

“Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute 5 percent of sea-level rise.”

“Two Antarctic glaciers that have long kept scientists awake at night are breaking free from the restraints that have hemmed them in, increasing the threat of large-scale sea-level rise.

Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 percent of global sea-level rise. The survival of Thwaites has been deemed so critical that the United States and Britain have launched a targeted multimillion-dollar research mission to the glacier. The loss of the glacier could trigger the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to eventually raise seas by about 10 feet.

The new findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from analysis of satellite images. They show that a naturally occurring buffer system that prevents the glaciers from flowing outward rapidly is breaking down, potentially unleashing far more ice into the sea in coming years.”

Chris Mooney reports for the Washington Post September 14, 2020.