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Complex evolving patterns of mass loss from Antarctica’s largest glacier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-131
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
DateAccepted/In press - 17 Dec 2019
DatePublished (current) - 27 Jan 2020


Pine Island Glacier has contributed more to sea level rise over the past four decades than any other glacier in Antarctica. Model projections indicate that this will continue in the future but at conflicting rates. Some models suggest that mass loss could dramatically increase over the next few decades, resulting in a rapidly growing contribution to sea level and fast retreat of the grounding line, where the grounded ice meets the ocean. Other models indicate more moderate losses. Resolving this contrasting behaviour is important for sea level rise projections. Here, we use high-resolution satellite observations of elevation change since 2010 to show that thinning rates are now highest along the slow-flow margins of the glacier and that the present-day amplitude and pattern of elevation change is inconsistent with fast grounding-line migration and the associated rapid increase in mass loss over the next few decades. Instead, our results support model simulations that imply only modest changes in grounding-line location over that timescale. We demonstrate how the pattern of thinning is evolving in complex ways both in space and time and how rates in the fast-flowing central trunk have decreased by about a factor five since 2007.



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