Science & Technology

First Confirmed Evidence of Antarctic Glacier Turning Point – Risk of Rapid and Irreversible Retreat

Dr. Sebastian Rossier at the Pine Island Glacier in 2015.Credit: Dr. Sebastian Rossier

For the first time, researchers have confirmed that the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica can cross a turning point and lead to a rapid and irreversible retreat that could have a significant impact on the world’s sea level.

The Pine Island Glacier is a fast-flowing ice region that drains West Antarctica, which is about two-thirds the size of the United Kingdom. Glaciers are a source of particular concern, as more ice is lost than any other glacier in Antarctica.

Today, the Pine Island Glacier, along with the adjacent Thwaites Glacier, accounts for about 10% of the world’s sea level rise.

Scientists have long argued that this region of Antarctica could reach a turning point and then experience an irreversible setback that could not be recovered. When such a retreat begins, the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet can collapse. This ice sheet contains enough ice to raise the world’s sea level by more than 3 meters.

The general possibility of such a turning point within the ice sheet has been raised earlier, but showing that the Pine Island Glacier can enter an unstable retreat is a very different question.

Now, researchers at Northumbria University have shown for the first time that this is the case.

Their findings are published in major journals. Cryosphere.

Pine Island Glacier Sebastian Rossier

Pine Island Glacier. Credit: Dr. Sebastian Rosier

The team has developed a method for identifying turning points within the ice sheet using a state-of-the-art ice flow model developed by the Northumbria Glaciology Research Group.

In the case of the Pine Island Glacier, their study shows that the glacier has at least three different turning points. The third and final event caused by a 1.2 ° C increase in seawater temperature leads to an irreversible retreat of the entire glacier.

Researchers have found that long-term warming and shallow riffle tendencies in the peri-deep sea, coupled with changing wind patterns in the Amundsen Sea, expose the ice shelves of the Pine Island Glacier to warmer water for longer periods of time. Probably states that it can cause more and more temperature changes in the sea.

The lead author of this study, Dr. Sebastian Roshie, is a researcher at the Vice President of the Department of Geographical and Environmental Sciences in Northumbria. He specializes in modeling processes that control Antarctic ice flow with the aim of understanding how continents will contribute to future sea-level rise.

Dr. Rosier, a member of the university’s glaciology research group led by Professor Hilmar Gudmundsson, is currently working on a large £ 4 million study to investigate whether climate change is driving the Antarctic ice sheet to a turning point. I’m out.

Dr. Rosier explains: “Although the region is more likely to cross a turning point in the past, our study is the first to confirm that the Pine Island Glacier actually exceeds these important thresholds.

“Various computer simulations around the world are trying to quantify how climate change affects the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, but identify whether the recession period of these models is a turning point. That is difficult.

“But that’s an important question, and the methodology used in this new study makes it much easier to identify potential future turning points.”

Hilmer Gudmunson, a professor of glaciology and extremophiles, collaborated with Dr. Roshie in his research. He added: “The possibility of the Pine Island Glacier entering an unstable retreat was previously raised, but this is the first time that this possibility has been rigorously established and quantified.

“This is a major step forward in understanding the dynamics of this area, and we are excited to finally be able to provide a solid answer to this important question.

“But the results of this study are also relevant to me. If a glacier enters an unstable and irreversible retreat, the impact on sea level can be measured in meters. As this study shows, the retreat Once started, it may not be possible to stop the glacier. “

See also: West Antarctic Pine Island Glacier Turning Point and Early Warning Indicator, Sebastian HR Rosier, Ronja Reese, Jonathan F. Donges, Jan De Rydt, G. HilmarGudmundsson, Ricarda Winkelmann, March 25, 2021 Cryosphere..

Northumbria is rapidly becoming the UK’s leading university for research in Antarctica and extremophiles. In addition to the £ 4m turning point study known as TiPPACC, Northampria is the only one to participate in two projects, the £ 20m International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, the largest joint project between the United Kingdom and the United States in Antarctica. It is also a British university. Over 70 years. Northumbria leads the PROPHET and GHC projects in Thwaites research. This particular study was funded through both TiPPACC and PROPHET.

First Confirmed Evidence of Antarctic Glacier Turning Point – Risk of Rapid and Irreversible Retreat First Confirmed Evidence of Antarctic Glacier Turning Point – Risk of Rapid and Irreversible Retreat

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