Antarctica discovery: Scientists stunned as glacier approaching its demise

Pine Island Glacier, in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, has an area of 175,000 square kilometres and loses about 45 billion tons of ice each year. Climate change has been blamed for the thinning of the Pine Island Glacier as warmer waters chip away at the ice. Scientists now fear that the damage may be irreversible, and as such will continue to monitor the situation.

New data and satellite analysis has found that the glacier continues to melt, but the rate at which it is disappearing is not accelerating.

Previous research had suggested the melting of the glacier was constantly speeding up, but analysis from the University of Bristol has found its melt is constant.

However, the researchers behind the study said this is not a sign of a victory in the battle against global warming.

Physicist Jonathan Bamber from the University of Bristol said: “This could seem like a ‘good news story’ but it’s important to remember that we still expect this glacier to continue to lose mass in the future and for that trend to increase over time, just not quite as fast as some model simulations suggested.

“It’s really important to understand why the models are producing different behaviour in the future and to get a better handle on how the glacier will evolve with the benefit of these new observations.”

Since 1975, the world has been warming at an alarming rate, with scientists stating that the global temperature has risen by roughly 0.15-0.20C per decade.

While this figure seems relatively low, global warming is undoubtably having an effect on the polar ice caps which continue to melt.

Since 1979, the volume of ice in the Arctic, or North Pole, has shrunk by an astonishing 80 percent – which scientists have warned will cause major sea level rises.

If just the West Antarctic Ice sheet, where the Pine Island Glacier is, were to completely melt, sea levels would rise by three metres.

Climate models have shown that a sea level rise of more than two metres could permanently submerge large parts of the British coastline with the likes of Hull, Peterborough, Portsmouth and parts of East London and the Thames Estuary all under threat.

The planet has already seen an increase of 1C compared to pre-industrial levels which will contribute massively to the melting of the ice caps and subsequent sea level rise.

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As it stands, sea levels are rising at about 8mm a year due to melting ice, and while that does not seem like much, the implications for future generations could be huge.

Between 1993 and 2014, sea levels rose by 66mm – or roughly 3mm per year.

If it continues at the current rate, or gets faster, it could mean coastal cities such as New York could be submerged by the end of the century.

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