• ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    ICYMI: #UCSB has begun its planned ecological restoration of a former golf course in Goleta. Details:… https://t.co/zN4ZDLyayK
    4 hours 35 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    Enjoy an entertaining mix of delightful cinema with #KidFlixMix, today at 3PM at UCSB Campbell Hall!… https://t.co/ijXZxyCEOL
    6 hours 15 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Softball: Gauchos Split Final Road Games at Hawai'i https://t.co/CpEDdmmhVc
    14 hours 40 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos are live on @ESPN3 ! WATCH >>> https://t.co/io6ZzYs9Hg https://t.co/BEO8wTxv62
    19 hours 47 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Congrats to Leah Foltz for winning the #UCSB Grad Slam! Now she moves onto the UC-wide competition in SF on May 4th! https://t.co/kVqCtOTWb7
    1 day 2 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Former @UCSB_Baseball LHP Dom Mazza speaks with his hometown paper after throwing a perfecto this week! https://t.co/GPc3B3qL9g
    1 day 3 hours ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    Watch pianist #MurrayPerahia's breathtaking and imaginative performance, tonight at 7PM at UCSB Campbell Hall!… https://t.co/M83EeA6Y53
    1 day 5 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Softball: Hawai'i Tops UCSB 5-1 in Gauchos' Final Road Series Opener https://t.co/ejf0MWM1g0
    1 day 13 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos Sweep Past UCI 4-0 https://t.co/WFwbxDV8eA
    1 day 15 hours ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    We're happy to see you back, alumni! Don't miss the great events we have this weekend. #AllGauchoReunion… https://t.co/Sbz4iirr7i
    1 day 19 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Women's Tennis: Cal Poly 0, UC Santa Barb. 4 (Final) No.2 UCSB blanks No.7 Cal Poly in Big West Quarterfinal 4-0 https://t.co/m4kdACQFo5
    1 day 19 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    .@UCSB_Baseball vs. UC Riverside on @ESPN3 is live now! Watch here >>> https://t.co/QJMvNLa0mQ
    1 day 19 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    WWP: Defending Big West Champs Defeated by No. 12 LBSU in Another Overtime Match https://t.co/XIO3RJdo9p
    1 day 20 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Top-Seeded UCSB Set to Host Big West Golf Championship at Sandpiper GC https://t.co/SyXPKB2Ur5
    1 day 21 hours ago
  • UCSBLibrary twitter avatar
    RT @ForestSways: CEMA poster preservation for primary source research. #Chicanohertiage @Marikhasmanyan @UCSBLibrary #sca17 https://t.co/M…
    1 day 23 hours ago

Major Antarctic Ice Loss Could Continue for Decades

New analyses by a research team, including a member of UCSB’s Earth Research Institute, shows that the Pine Island Glacier also thinned abruptly 8,000 years ago
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 11:00
Santa Barbara, CA

Dylan Rood ENH.jpg

Dylan Rood

Dylan Rood uses an accelerator mass spectrometer to measure beryllium-10, the method used to reconstruct the thinning history of the Pine Island Glacier.

Photo Credit: 

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

New research suggests that the largest single contributor to global sea level rise, a glacier of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, may continue melting for decades to come. International geologists, including Dylan Rood, a researcher at UC Santa Barbara’s Earth Research Institute, found that Pine Island Glacier, which is rapidly accelerating, thinning and retreating, has actually thinned rapidly before.

The team said its findings, which draw from glacial-geological and geochronological data, demonstrate the potential for current ice loss to continue for several decades. The paper, published today in Science, is part of a wide range of international scientific efforts to understand the behavior of this important glacier.

The study shows that during the early Holocene around 8,000 years ago the glacier thinned as fast as it has in recent decades, providing an important model for its future behavior. The glacier is currently experiencing significant acceleration, thinning and retreat thought to be caused by ocean-driven melting — an increase in warm ocean water finding its way under the ice shelf — which is in turn causing a reduction in ice shelf buttressing.

“The melting of the Pine Island Glacier at a rate comparable to that over the past two decades is rare but not unprecedented,” Rood said. “Ongoing ocean-driven melting of the glacial ice shelf in current times may result in continued rapid thinning and grounding line retreat for several more decades or even centuries.”

After 20 years of rapid ice loss, concerns are arising over how much more ice will be lost to the ocean in the future. Model projections of the future of Pine Island Glacier contain large uncertainties, leaving questions about the rate, timing and persistence of future sea level rise. However, rocks exposed by retreating or thinning glaciers provide evidence of past ice sheet change, which helps scientists to predict possible future change.

The geologists used highly sensitive dating techniques pioneered by a team member to track the thinning of Pine Island Glacier through time and to show that the past thinning lasted for several decades. According to lead author Joanne Johnson of the British Antarctic Survey, the team’s geological data illustrate the history of Pine Island Glacier in greater detail than ever before. The fact that it thinned so rapidly in the past demonstrates how sensitive it is to environmental change, she said, with small changes producing dramatic and long-lasting results.

“Based on what we know, we can expect the rapid ice loss to continue for a long time yet, especially if ocean-driven melting of the ice shelf in front of Pine Island Glacier continues at current rates,” she said.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, this work was also made possible by a Marie Tharp Fellowship in the Earth, Environmental and Ocean Sciences from the Earth Institute/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University (awarded to Joanne Johnson). Logistic support was provided by the Alfred Wegener Institute.

Contact Info: 

Julie Cohen
julie.cohe@ucsb.edu
(805) 893-7220

Topics: