Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Snapshots of the Devolution of West Antarctica’s Glaciers

A report published in this month’s Journal of Glaciology traces the evolution of West Antarctica’s glaciers. The study, produced by the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), reveals that parts of West Antarctica’s floating ice fleet are slowly but surely breaking apart and sliding into surrounding sea waters.

The team’s conclusions reflect data taken from nearly 40 years of satellite imagery. “Anyone can examine this region in Google Earth and see a snapshot of the same satellite data we used,” Joseph MacGregor, a research scientist associate and lead author of the study, said in a release accompanying the study.

The greatest source of concern is a disintegrating ice shelf in West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea Embayment, which saw the highest rate of ice loss from 1972 to 2011. Researchers are particularly worried about the state of the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers, which thinned considerable over the past ten years. Evidence of existing fractures in remaining ice shelves suggest that the pattern will continue in the future.

See for yourself in the slideshow of photos above (collected by StateImpact Texas intern Filipa Rodrigues) which contains several satellite and up-close images of West Antarctica’s glacier population. Combined, they illustrate just how majestic, vast, and vulnerable these glaciers really are.

Yana Skorobogatov is an intern with StateImpact Texas.


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