Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica has gone through an irreversible retreat, passing a tipping point within the last 80 years, researchers have found.
The findings, which are published in the influential journal Nature Climate Change, have emerged when world leaders gather in Dubai to debate the impacts of climate change at the COP28 conference.
While numerical model simulations have been used for some time to study the behaviour of glaciers and ice sheets, researchers from Northumbria University and Bangor University combined these for the first time with real-world satellite observations to identify whether a tipping point has been crossed in the past.
They have now been able to confirm that Pine Island Glacier underwent a rapid, unstable retreat at some point between the 1940s and 1970s, leading to an irreversible loss of ice over several decades.
Pine Island Glacier, together with its neighbour Thwaites Glacier, have been called the ‘underbelly’ of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Pine Ice Glacier is one of the fastest flowing outlets of ice in West Antarctica and has contributed more to global mean sea-level rise in recent decades than any other Antarctic glacier.