The collapse, recorded by satellite images, was the first in human history when a shelf glacier collapsed in the cold region of East Antarctica.
A New York-sized shelf glacier has collapsed in East Antarctica, an area that has long been considered stable and not badly affected by climate change, concerned scientists said on Friday.
The collapse, recorded by satellite images, was the first time in human history that a landslide occurred in a cold region. It happened at the beginning of a strange warm steam last week when the temperature rose more than 70 degrees (40 Celsius) warmer than is common in some parts of East Antarctica. Satellite photos show that the area has shrunk rapidly over the past couple of years, and scientists now say they wonder if they have overestimated the stability and resilience of East Antarctica. global warming which quickly melted the ice on the smaller western side and vulnerable peninsula.
The shelf glacier, about 460 square miles wide, held in the Congers and Glenzer glaciers due to warm water, collapsed between March 14 and 16, said ice scientist Catherine Walker of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. She said scientists have never seen this in this part of the continent and it is a cause for concern.
“Glenzer Conger’s shelf glacier is thought to have existed for thousands of years, and it never will be,” said Peter Neff, an ice scientist at the University of Minnesota.
The question is not in the amount of ice lost in the landslide, Nef and Walker said. This is insignificant. But more on where it happened.
Nef said he was concerned that previous assumptions about the stability of East Antarctica might not be so plausible. And this is important because the water frozen in East Antarctica, when it melts – and this is a millennium-long process, if not longer – will raise the sea around the world by more than 160 feet. That’s more than five times as much ice in the more vulnerable glacial shield of West Antarctica, where scientists have focused most of their research.
Neff said scientists have seen that shelf glaciers have shrunk slightly since the 1970s. Then in 2020, the loss of ice on the shelf accelerated to the loss of about half of itself every month or so, Walker said.
“We’re probably seeing the result of long ocean warming there,” Walker said. “It just melts and melts.”
And then last week’s warming up is “probably something like, you know, the last straw on a camel’s back”.