Cracks are increasing in western Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, and they’re an ominous warning that significant ice loss is on the way.
This is not the first significant ice loss in recent times. Almost a year ago, on Oct. 29, 2018, an iceberg measuring approximately 116 sq. Miles calved from the glacier, lower than one month after a large crack has been seen.
Soon after the calving of B46 iceberg, a chunk that estimated for 87 sq. Miles (226 sq. km) of the October 2018 ice loss, the two new cracks appeared, stated Mark Drinkwater, on the European Space Agency (ESA).
These cracks have been noticed in early 2019 by the ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites.
The latest satellite observations reveal that the new cracks are rising, the ESA reported in their statement. Each of the cracks measures around 12 miles (20 km) in size. Their expansion suggests the ice sheet is going through imminent and significant ice loss, based on the ESA.
Each Sentinel satellite missions carry out polar observations. However, Sentinel-1’s paired orbiters are particularly helpful for monitoring the situation of ice at Pine Island Glacier, as these satellites use a system for imaging known as synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that can capture images year-round, throughout winter’s dark months and in any weather, according to the ESA.
Pine Island Glacier connects the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to the Amundsen Sea. It is the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica, and calving incidents have increased in recent years, NASA reported. Warming ocean currents are additionally melting the glacier from underneath, washing ice away faster than the glacier can replenish it, the ESA stated.
Before the 2018 calving, the glacier suffered two more massive ice losses in 2015 and 2017, raising concerns among glaciologists for the region’s future stability.