West Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier has long been known as a weak link in the antarctic ice cap. It has long been seen as the antarctic glacier which will probably disintegrate first. Now this prediction is suddenly speeding up as the ice shelf holding it in place disintegrates. Basically, Pine Island Glacier is disintegrating, at a sudden and alarming rate.
The Pine Island glacier is part of the Thwaites Glacier Ice Stream. The whole Thwaites Glacier is seen as being very unstable. And Pine Island is one of its most unstable parts. There is a very good video about the inevitable disintegration of the Thwaites glacier at the end of this post. It explains a lot of difficult things very simply.
Below is a time-lapse of what is happening to Pine Island Glacier. This time lapse shows the glacier losing about 1/5 of its mass from 2015 to 2020.
A June 11, 2021 article in the Washinton Post says that,
The Pine Island glacier was already scary. The 160-mile-long river of ice is known as “the weak underbelly” of West Antarctica. It already contributes more to sea level rise than any other glacier on the continent and it ranks among the fastest-melting glaciers in the world.
The shelf of ice holding the Pine Island Glacier in place is like the cork in a bottle of wine. If this cork disintegrates, everything behind it will suddenly come rushing out. And the whole Pine Island Glacier could suddenly be floating in the sea and radically raising sea levels all over he world.
From the Washington Post article:
The ice shelf is tearing itself apart. It has lost one-fifth of its mass in the last five years, shedding icebergs the size of cities. Rifts have opened up in the center of the shelf, potentially adding to the instability.
If this disintegration continues, “the whole shelf could potentially fall apart in the next few years, which is greatly faster than what we expected,” says a new science report.
Very conservative and careful scientists are now saying that it’s not at all inconceivable that the rest of the ice shelf could be gone in a decade.
If all of Pine Island Glacier fell into the sea the resulting sea level rise would be catastrophic. “The Pine Island Glacier on its own contains enough ice to bump sea levels up by 1.6 feet if it melted.”
If this happening storm surges would be many feet hight than they already are all over the world.
Below is a very good video of how Thwaites Glacier in the Antarctic is disintegrating. Pine Island Glacier is very closely related to Thwaites Glacier.