Antarctica's massive Pine Island glacier is melting so quickly that it is going to completely vanish in the near future, scientists said in a report published Sunday.
The huge mass of ice recently calved off a chunk larger than eight Manhattan Islands stacked end to end, and is thought to be the leading contributor to sea level rise today. To make matters worse, a study published on Sunday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change found that from 1992 through 2011 it shed over 20 billion tons of ice each year, and that's now accelerating to more than 100 billion tons every year.
The rate of ice loss has increased to such extremes that study author Gael Durand, a French glaciologist, now believes that Antarctica's Pine Island glacier is locked into "a phase of self-sustained retreat" that will continue "irreversibly."
NASA scientists drilled deep holes through the ice shelf in 2013 to take measurements of the water below and study the rate of ice loss from the glacier. They found that the warm salty water currents below the ice have led to melt rates of an astonishing two inches per day in some areas.
Pine Island is just one massive, insurmountable piece of evidence supporting the theory of climate change. The fact is, glaciers all over the world are exhibiting the same marked changes, retreating at a rate never seen before in recorded human history, and scientists have been observing this trend for a long time.
The two greatest areas of concern for scientists are Antarctica and Greenland, which will be the greatest contributors to sea-level rise in the coming years, posing a dire threat to some of the world's greatest cities. In Greenland, as well, massive iceberg calving has been observed in detail. In one notable example, the 2012 film "Chasing Ice," starring National Geographic photographer James Balog, featured an iceberg larger than New York City calving off Greenland's Ilulissat glacier.
The World Glacier Monitoring Service Conducted a survey of 442 glaciers around the world in 2005 and determined that 90 percent were in retreat, and their rate of retreat has only accelerated since then as the concentration of carbon in Earth's atmosphere increases and the climate warms. The U.S. Geological Service has even predicted that Montana's Glacier National Park will be glacier-free by 2030, or possibly sooner.
Without greater regulation of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases, expect to see lots more scenes just like these in the years to come.
Disclosure: The author of this article is a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Project.