Sunday, February 24, 2008
Massive Antarctic Glacier Picking up Speed
A team of British scientists reports a huge Antarctic glacier has speeded up by 7% since last year dumping large amounts of ice into the ocean. Previous studies during the last decade found this glacier to be speeding up by only 1% a year so this is a disturbing finding. The scientists, who described the situation to the BBC, found that this glacier, called the Pine Island Glacier, is the largest of three massive West Antarctic glaciers that have increased speed over the last decade. If most of the Pine Island Glacier winds up in the ocean the global sea level might rise by 25 cm. The scientists can only speculate on why the glacier is moving so fast. One hypothesis is that warmer water in a deep ocean current is flowing near the mouth of the glacier and under the ice. Another hypothesis is that geothermal heat is being released in the area. In any event, if the glacier keeps moving at a rapid pace, predictions of global sea level rise for this century will have to be adjusted upward.