SOURCE: Stanford University

DATE: January 23, 2018

SNIP: A new study shows that a large and potentially unstable Antarctic glacier may be melting farther inland than previously thought and that this melting could affect the stability of another large glacier nearby – an important finding for understanding and projecting ice sheet contributions to sea-level rise.

The findings, by a Stanford-led team of radar engineers and geophysical glaciologists, came from radar data collected at the same locations in 2004, 2012 and 2014, each revealing details of the glaciers miles below the surface. The surveys show that ocean water is reaching beneath the edge of the Pine Island Glacier about 7.5 miles further inland than indicated by previous observations from space.

The team also found that the Southwest Tributary of Pine Island Glacier, a deep ice channel between the two glaciers, could trigger or accelerate ice loss in Thwaites Glacier if the observed melting of Pine Island Glacier by warm ocean water continues down the ice channel.

This new perspective on the Southwest Tributary shows melting beneath Pine Island may be currently or imminently causing the melting of Thwaites and speeding the rate of sea-level rise.