Yet another chunk of Antarctic glacier sheared off over the weekend, shattering into iceberg shards and causing continued consternation among scientists observing what they fear to be the disintegration of the most frozen place on Earth.
“What is unsettling is that the daily data stream [from satellites] reveals the dramatic pace at which climate is redefining the face of Antarctica,” said Mark Drinkwater, senior scientist and cryosphere specialist at the European Space Agency, in a statement.
The agency observed this latest chip off the continent over the weekend, but it was the culmination of weeks of watching and waiting.
It comes close on the heels of a record temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
This was the eighth time the glacier has calved in the past century, noted National Geographic. It has done so previously in 2001, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, with the events occurring closer and closer together.
Glaciers are essentially frozen rivers, and the flow of the Pine Island Glacier has been speeding up, with velocities upwards of 30 feet a day, the European Space Agency said. The ice, about 1,600 feet thick, “has experienced a series of calving events over the past 30 years, some of which have abruptly changed the shape and position of the ice front.”
The Pine Island glacier is just one of many around Antarctica’s perimeter. It and its neighbor, Thwaites Glacier, comprise “one of the main pathways for ice pouring into the Amundsen Sea from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, says NASA. It also holds the dubious distinction of being “one of the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica,” NASA says, noting that the region “contains enough vulnerable ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet.”