Points of no return: the Île du Pin glacier can cause sea levels to rise 3 meters

A glacier the size of two thirds the size of Great Britain. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Vitalii Matokha

There is a glacier in Antarctica called Pine Island Glacier. And this glacier is of particular importance to scientists. Should it collapse, the sea level could rise by more than ten feet! This glacier, which is two-thirds the size of the UK, is located in West Antarctica, a fast-flowing area.

Scientists are watching it closely and guess there might be points of no return … Three exactly! On February 23, a 1,270 km² iceberg had already detached itself from the pack ice … And global warming is not indifferent to this story.

An unstoppable ascent in the water

Pine Island Glacier and nearby Thwaites Glacier are already causing sea levels to rise by 10%. Most worrying for researchers, however, would be reaching a point of no return that would result in an inexorable rise in water levels. A study published on the European Union of Geosciences and carried out by glaciologists from the University of Northumbria (United Kingdom) sought to identify these tipping points.

In their conclusion, the Île du Pin glacier would have at least three points of no return. And one of those points, created by the 1.2 ° C rise in sea temperature, would lead to the collapse of the entire glacier. According to these researchers, the warming of the Antarctic polar waters combined with the change in winds makes the glacier top permanent.

Completion of the study

“This study is a huge step forward in our understanding of ice dynamics in Antarctica, and I am pleased that we have finally been able to give a clear answer to this important question. But I also worry about our results. If the glacier entered an unstable and irreversible retreat, the impact on sea level could be measured in meters, and once the retreat begins, it may not be able to be stopped, ”concludes glaciologist Hilmar Gudmundsson.