Satellite images show that two major glaciers in Antarctica have been severely damaged at some vulnerable points. It can cause vital ice shelves to rupture, with all the associated consequences for the rise in sea levels.
The Pine Island and Thwaites Glacier are located side by side in the west of Antarctica on the Amundsen Sea. They are melting rapidly and already account for 5 percent of the total sea level rise. “We knew that they were sleeping giants and that they lost many kilometers of ice, but we did not yet know how fast it goes and how much it is exactly,” says researcher Stef Lhermitte of Delft University of Technology.
In a new study that Monday in the trade journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences appeared, the researchers write that the foundations of the glaciers have weakened and that the damage done in recent decades is accelerating the melting process and the possible collapse of the ice sheets. “These ice shelves are in the early stages of disintegration, they are starting to disintegrate,” said Lhermitte, who analyzed satellite data between 1997 and 2019.
The researchers found that the areas at the edges of the floating ice shelves are the most damaged, where the fast-moving ice hits on top of the underlying ice or rock. “The ice sheet is like slow-moving traffic. It floats on the ocean, but stops the traffic behind it, ”says the Delft researcher. “So if you weaken this slow car, the ice will fall apart faster behind it.”
It is a vicious circle according to the researchers: “The weakened ice accelerates damage to the edges of the glacier, which in turn leads to more damage and disintegration of the ice shelf itself.”
Bron (nen): CNN