Three Icebergs break off West Antarctica’s most Endangered Glacier
Images recently posted in the Arctic Sea Ice Forum reveal three significant breakups, or calving events, in mid-October on Pine Island Glacier’s floating ice shelf in West Antarctica.
Pine Island Glacier (PIG) is Antarctica’s fastest melting glacier, and therefore the region’s greatest contributor to sea level rise. PIG is increasingly fragile due to thinning caused by heightened ice shelf melting and an increase in calving events, in which masses of ice break off into icebergs and make the glacier even more vulnerable to potential collapse.
PIG and its neighboring Thwaites Glacier are located in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, a large reservoir of frozen water, the release of which could result in a staggering surge in global sea levels if both glaciers collapse. Thwaites is known as the Doomsday Glacier because its collapse could take all of West Antarctica with it.
Olivia Rosane of Ecowatch has noted that Pine Island Glacier has already lost 25% of its ice shelf. PIG contains approximately 180 trillions of ice, equivalent to 0.5 meters or 1.6 feet of global sea level rise. Together, the rapid melting of Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers could cause global sea levels to rise by four feet.
While iceberg calving from Antarctic ice shelves is a natural process, calving events such as this most recent one appear to be happening more frequently and is likely exacerbated by global warming.
Read more about committed melt on both poles HERE.