Two large Antarctic glaciers close to collapse

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Two large Antarctic glaciers close to collapse

The two great Antarctic glaciers Pine Island and Thwaites are rapidly fracturing at key points and could contribute to rising sea levels.

Climate change could leads Antarctic glaciers close to collapse

This was found by images of the Sentinel-2 satellites (of the Copernicus program of the European Space Agency ESA) and Landsat of NASA in a study published in PNAS.

The glaciers in question have been monitored for some time, but now the growth of damaged areas from 1997 to 2019 has been documented with fractures and crevasses in correspondence with the areas bordering the floating ice shelves.

Furthermore, some days ago we talked about the Glaciers in Greenland which have undergone such a significant reduction that, even in the event of targeted interventions against global warming, the ice sheet would continue to melt.

This is what emerges from a study, published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment and conducted by experts from the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State University, who claim that Greenland has now reached the point of no return.

Michalea King, researcher at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said: "We have taken into consideration the satellite observations. the winter snows are unable to counteract the melting of the ice. During the 80s and 90s the accumulated snow and melted ice were in a balanced situation, with the ice caps losing about 450 billion tons of ice every year, while since the beginning of new millennium the glaciers have lost about 500 billion tons every year, without the snowfall increasing."

According to the team's findings, the ice sheet will only gain mass one year every century. King then said: "The glaciers have shrunk enough that many of them are in deeper water, which means that the amount of ice in contact with water has increased, which further melts the ice and makes it more the return to previous conditions is more difficult.

The retreat of the glacier - adds Ian Howat, co-author of the article and lecturer at Ohio State University - has brought the ice sheets into a constant state of loss. This is a global problem." The scientist points out that Greenland ice is one of the main contributing factors to sea level rise.

"However, there are positive sides - concludes King - because it is always good to learn more about glacier environments, since we can only improve our predictions on how quickly the situation will change in the future.

And this can only help us with adaptation strategies. and mitigation. If we understand these dynamics, we can be ready." It is not so much the records that have to scare us, but rather the constantly increasing average temperatures.

Renato Colucci, glaciologist and researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the National Research Council, said: "Beyond the record what is worrying is not so much the single case of extreme heat, which is in minimal statistics, as much as an increase, even if of a few degrees, which affects the average temperatures."

For example, the researcher recalls the case of numerous summers in recent decades, in which values ​​have been consistently two, three or four degrees higher than the historical averages of the respective periods.

"What is happening in Greenland - adds Colucci - is an inevitable consequence of a climate that is no longer able to support many of the existing glacial masses, something that researchers have been announcing for some time."