Rapid Degradation of West Antarctic Ice Underway

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 17 May 2019



Antarctic from Space
From Big Ice Hole research, beautiful image from NASA Scientific Visulation Studio
From Big Ice Hole research, beautiful image from NASA Scientific Visulation Studio


Rapid Degradation of West Antarctic Ice Underway

Study finds 24% of West Antarctic Ice is now Unstable,
American Geophysical Union, May 16, 2019.


"In only 25 years, ocean melting has caused ice thinning to spread across West Antarctica so rapidly that a quarter of its glacier ice is now affected, according to a new study."

"Antarctica's ice sheet has thinned by up to 122 meters in places, with the most rapid changes occurring in West Antarctica where ocean melting has triggered glacier imbalance. "

Antarctic Elevation/Thickness Changes 1992-2019
Changes to the Antarctic ice sheet’s thickness from 1992 to 2017, Shepherd et al 2019/Geophysical Research Letters/AGU.
This map shows changes to the Antarctic ice sheet’s thickness from 1992 to 2017. Warming ocean waters have caused the ice to thin so rapidly that 24 percent of glaciers in West Antarctica are now affected. In some places, glacier thinning has spread far inland. Credit: Shepherd et al 2019/Geophysical Research Letters/AGU. Big.

Also See
Ice Loss=Sea Level
Time sequence of Antarctic Glacier Ice Thickness Change between 1992 and 2019.

100 Year Antarctic Ice Loss

Rapid Spread & Acceleration
"Since 1992, the thinning has spread across 24 percent of West Antarctica and over the majority of its largest ice streams - the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers - which are now losing ice five times faster than they were at the start of the survey."

"We can see clearly now that a wave of thinning has spread rapidly across some of Antarctica's most vulnerable glaciers, and their losses are driving up sea levels around the planet."

Iceberg at Marguerite Bay
Iceberg at Marguerite Bay, Andrew Shepherd.
An iceberg at Marguerite Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. New research finds 24 percent of West Antarctic ice is now unstable. Credit: Andrew Shepherd. Big.

Sat Science
"The study used over 800 million measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet height recorded by the ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat, and CryoSat-2 satellite altimeter missions between 1992 and 2017 and simulations of snowfall over the same period produced by the RACMO regional climate model."

“We can see clearly now that a wave of thinning has spread rapidly across some of Antarctica’s most vulnerable glaciers, and their losses are driving up sea levels around the planet."

Sky Eye
“This is an important demonstration of how satellite missions can help us to understand how our planet is changing.”


More Antarctic Ice Research

Antarctic Mass Loss over 100 years
Research: Increasing Antarctic Snowing Replacing a Third of Increasing Ice Loss



Much Faster Ross Ice Shelf Melting than Assumed or Expected


2018 Status of All Antarctic Ice: Ice Loss Triples


Spring 2015, West Antarctic Ice Collapsing, Shocking Research




A Glacial Scorecard Since 1961


Melting Ice, Glaciers, & Ice Caps: Estimating Dates for Reaping the Whirlwind(s)



East Antarctic, Too

Once Thought Invincible, East Antarctic Ice Now seen as Vulnerable


Permafrost Collapse




Bottom Line

The net effects of the remodeling of the atmospheric and oceanic circulations at the poles of our planet, these changes that we are very scientifically observing, are merely the outward signs of the dramatic changes in how our planet looks and how it operates, that are already well underway.

New World
These fundamental (and ongoing) changes to our atmosphere and oceans have already firmly established the trajectory of our climate and weather for the near and medium term future, if not the long term.

Fully Triggered
We have triggered imbalances in Natural forces that we couldn't stop now, even if we really wanted to, and even if we really applied the most efficient methods of stopping and reversing our pernicious effects on our surrounding environmental balances. We've already cast that die and crossed that Rubicon. We've radically unbalanced Nature, and now we are fated to watch the consequences of our past actions distort our present and condition our future realities, for at least the next many hundreds of years, if not thousands.

Our present actions have already determined the weather of the next few hundreds of years, and if our near future behavior continues to mirror our near past, our planet will be cooking for thousands and thousands of years into the future. Our destructive ability appears limitless.

Change You Can Believe In
What we have already done to Nature is, and will, continue playing itself out through these increasingly dramatic changes we are observing across every aspect of our climate, weather, and ecosystems, and especially as our Polar centers of cold continue to warm up, and their effects on each hemisphere's climate and weather patterns continues changing. This thing has just started to heat up...

Polar Shifts
Changes at the poles are important, for their traditional configurations regulates the extremes of our traditional seasons. They were, in a sense, climatic, "governors," maintaining our planet's climate balance in the range of the triple transition points of water. This regulatory function is changing, moving up to a whole different range of extremes neither we, nor our fellow passengers within this giant ecosystem, were designed, nor are prepared for. No ice, "The End of Cold," that we have engineered makes this a rather hot planet.

New Daddy, Just Like the Old
The effects of our irresponsible growth will completely change all of our individual relationships, and every society's general relationship with Nature, as all of our changing local climates, weather patterns, and dependent ecosystems pull the rug out from under the whole range of mankind's ancient and traditional relationships between us, our societies, and the fertility of our planet.

Nobody's technology, "works," when you've drained the fertility out of a system...

You can believe in these changes because you are within them, and are participating, observing, and are undergoing the effects of these dramatic changes to our climate and ecosystems, if you are aware of this fact or not. You are most likely part of what's driven, and is driving these, "unbalancing," forces of destruction forward...

You ever have a dream where you think you are doing one, "thing," or heading to one destination, but then all of a sudden realize that your actions are really doing something else, that you are really on the wrong trail to reach your potential destination?

Humans are intentionally doing exactly that, on a, "globalized," scale right now, with both individuals and whole cultures not admitting, and studiously avoiding understanding, that their greedy goals, and the lies they tell to justify them, are destroying our, and even our environment's, true potentials.

The spirit motivating our destruction of Nature, and each other, is a central component of the dynamic of Nature, that, "life eats itself to survive." That brutal dynamic is well-captured by humans, and strongly magnified by our technology and numbers, ultimately resulting in our reaching the point we are at, of disturbing Nature's most fundamental balances. Nature itself cannot withstand our, "natural," brutality, when magnified by our technology and numbers.

The question as it comes down now, as I see it, is, "are we brave enough to explore Nature on Its own terms, cherish the heart of Its dynamic force as we found It, and defend the ability of these forces to operate around our planet. This can only happen by us humans restraining ourselves.

Or are we going to allow ourselves to kill and eat it it all?

It looks to me like we've already answered that question.



Glacier Research Links
Extensive End of Cold links




Antarctic Resources

Antarctic Map
Canada/British Antarctic Survey detailed map of Antarctica
Canada's BAS PDF Antarctic Map




Antarctic Ice Shelves
Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) showing location of key ice shelves.
Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) showing location of key ice shelves, credit to Antarctic Glaciers Organization.
Credit to Antarctic Glaciers Organization





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