Glacier Subject of Study Sea-level Rise08/12/2011
|A team of scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is to survey the largest glacier in the world, Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, to understand how ice is being lost and its likely contribution to future sea-level rise. This week, a four-strong team (two scientists and two support staff) embarked on the journey from BAS Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula to their remote field site on Pine Island Glacier in Western Antarctica where they will spend twelve weeks living in tents.|
Pine Island Glacier is of great interest to scientists worldwide as it has been thinning at a rate of more than 1m per year and its flow rate has accelerated over the past 15 years. The current, substantial research effort to look at the glacier's contribution to sea-level rise began only a decade ago. The scientific techniques used to study other glaciers were filmed by the Frozen Planet team.
The team is using a number of techniques including GPS (global positioning systems) and seismic measurements to map the conditions beneath the ice and improve our understanding of what allows this massive river of ice to flow at more than two miles per year.
Pine Island Glacier is known as the weak ‘underbelly' of the Antarctic because a relatively small ice shelf (a floating platform of ice that forms where a glacier or ice sheet flows down to the ocean surface) is holding back ice in a huge basin (larger than the size of England) and keeping it from flowing into the ocean. The ice shelf acts as a ‘plug' holding the glacier in place on land.
Dr Smith flew with the Frozen Planet team up the Antarctic Peninsula in January 2010 to witness the disintegrating of part of the Wilkins Ice shelf, the size of Yorkshire or Jamaica, and to film its dramatic break up.
The crew captured footage of giant icebergs, some over 1-mile in diameter. Smith says, "Now that's remarkable - the edge of the ice shelf has disintegrated. It's almost like a slow-motion explosion."
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Positioning Ice Current Seismic
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