DATE: October 25, 2017
SNIP: Thousands of marks on the Antarctic seafloor, caused by icebergs which broke free from glaciers more than ten thousand years ago, show how part of the Antarctic Ice Sheet retreated rapidly at the end of the last ice age as it balanced precariously on sloping ground and became unstable. Today, as the global climate continues to warm, rapid and sustained retreat may be close to happening again and could trigger runaway ice retreat into the interior of the continent, which in turn would cause sea levels to rise even faster than currently projected.
“Ice-cliff collapse has been debated as a theoretical process that might cause West Antarctic Ice Sheet retreat to accelerate in the future,” said co-author Dr Robert Larter, from the British Antarctic Survey. “Our observations confirm that this process is real and that it occurred about 12,000 years ago, resulting in rapid retreat of the ice sheet into Pine Island Bay.”
Today, the two glaciers are getting ever closer to the point where they may become unstable, resulting once again in rapid ice retreat.