Feeds

Antarctic glacier 'melted JUST as fast LONG before human carbon emissions'

Nothing new going on at Pine Island, insist British boffins

Security for virtualized datacentres

Top boffins from the British Antarctic Survey say that the Pine Island Glacier - famous as a possible major cause of global-warming-powered sea level rises - was melting just as fast thousands of years ago as it is melting today.

“This paper [just published] is part of a wide range of international scientific efforts to understand the behaviour of this important glacier," explains Professor Mike Bentley, one of the leaders of a BAS effort to find out what's going on with the PIG.

"The results are clear in showing a remarkably abrupt thinning of the glacier 8000 years ago," adds the professor.

The Pine Island Glacier has been much studied over the last two decades, as the rate of ice melting into the sea there has accelerated during those years. Many scientists have theorised that this might be due to global warming caused by human burning of fossil fuels. It's been suggested that the PIG on its own might cause sea levels to rise by several centimetres this century (for background the seas rose about 17cm in the last century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects this to increase massively this century, though there's plenty of research to suggest otherwise.)

However it now appears that the recent rapid flow of the PIG into the sea may just be one of those things that happens from time to time, as it did 8,000 years ago. This is borne out by research from 2010, in which BAS boffins sent a robot submarine under the glacier's projecting ice shelf and found that its acceleration in recent times probably resulted from the fact that it has just finished grinding away a troublesome underwater reef which was slowing it down and causing ice to back up.

The new BAS research on the similar episode 8,000 years ago suggests that the resulting increased ice flow today at the PIG may well go on for some decades yet.

"Based on what we know, we can expect the rapid ice loss to continue for a long time yet," comments the BAS' Joanne Johnson.

It may not, though, or anyway not uninterruptedly. Previous BAS research which came out last month revealed that the most recent ice melt rates for the PIG are the "lowest ever recorded" there, having halved in just two years.

In any case it appears more and more likely that the rapid melting of the PIG's sea ice shelf from the early 1990s to 2010 would have happened anyway, regardless of humanity's carbon emissions. Hearteningly perhaps, the Antarctic sea ice area continues to increase overall, global warming or no.

The new BAS research is published in premier boffinry mag Science. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.