10,000 Satellite Images Reveal Speed-Up of Glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula

Aerial Photograph of Antarctic Peninsula

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Aerial pictures of the Antarctic Peninsula’s glaciers. Credit: Dr. Anna E. Hogg, University of Leeds

According to researchers, glaciers – large blocks of shifting ice – situated alongside the coast of Antarctica are flowing sooner in the course of the summer season attributable to a mix of melting snow and hotter ocean temperatures.

On common, the glaciers journey at round one kilometer (0.6 miles) a yr. But a brand new research has discovered a seasonal variation within the velocity of the ice stream, which accelerated by as much as 22% in summer season when temperatures are hotter. This offers an perception into the way in which local weather change might have an effect on the conduct of glaciers and the function they might play in elevating sea ranges.

Up till now, the research of the rugged Antarctic peninsula has been restricted due to the difficulties scientists face getting onto the glaciers to conduct fieldwork. But from house, advances in satellite tv for pc know-how are revealing new insights into the velocity at which the glaciers are shifting and draining water into the encompassing ocean.

Antarctic Peninsula Aerial Photograph

Aerial pictures of the Antarctic Peninsula’s glaciers. Credit: Dr. Anna E. Hogg, University of Leeds

Antarctic Peninsula – and international sea ranges

The Antarctic Peninsula is the biggest reservoir of frozen water on Earth. It is estimated that between 1992 and 2017, meltwater from the glaciers elevated international sea ranges by round 7.6 mm. How which will change sooner or later is without doubt one of the huge uncertainties in modeling local weather change.

A staff of researchers, led by scientists on the University of Leeds, has used greater than 10,000 satellite tv for pc photos, taken above the Antarctic Peninsula between 2014 and 2021, to know how the stream of glaciers into the waters across the Antarctic alters throughout colder and hotter durations.

Ben Wallis, a doctoral researcher and first creator of the research, mentioned: “One of the important findings of this study is that it reveals how sensitive glaciers in Antarctica are to the environment. We have known for a long time that glaciers in Greenland have a seasonal behavior, but it is only now that satellite data has shown similar behavior in Antarctica.”

The paper shall be printed immediately (February 27, 2023) within the journal Nature Geosciences.

Breguet Glacier Time Lapse

This time-lapse exhibits the stream of Breguet Glacier, one of many 105 glaciers that characteristic within the research. This animation is made with Synthetic Aperture Radar photos, the identical photos that scientists use to measure how briskly the ice is flowing. Credit: Ben Wallis, University of Leeds/ESA

Antarctic Peninsula

The Antarctic Peninsula is probably the most northern and warmest area of Antarctica. It has a 1,000 km lengthy mountainous backbone, much like the size of the east coast of Great Britain, and residential to a wealthy marine ecosystem of seals, penguins, and whales.

Along the west coast of the peninsula, the glaciers drain ice from the ice sheet straight into the Southern Ocean.

Analysis of the satellite tv for pc knowledge confirmed that the glacier speed-up happens in summer season as snow melts and the temperature of the waters within the Southern Ocean rise. It is assumed that water from the melting snow acts as a lubricant between the ice sheet and the underlying rock. As a end result, friction is decreased and the velocity at which the glaciers slide will increase.

In addition, the hotter waters of the Southern Ocean erode the entrance of the shifting ice, which reduces the buttressing forces it exerts to withstand the ice stream.

Dr. Anna Hogg, Associate Professor within the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science at Leeds and an creator of the paper, mentioned: “The Antarctic Peninsula has seen some of the most rapid warming of any region on Earth. Continuing work like this will help glaciologists monitor how quickly change is occurring, enabling accurate assessments of how Earth’s ice will respond to climate change.”

Antarctic Peninsula Speed Map

Map of ice velocity within the research space on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: Copernicus, International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean (IBCSO), Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Ben Wallis, University of Leeds

Earth commentary from house

The European Space Agency and European Commission Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite, whose data was used in this study, provides weekly monitoring around the whole coastline of Antarctica.

The satellite is fitted with synthetic aperture radar which can “see” through clouds, enabling measurements of the glaciers to be taken both day and night.

Craig Donlon of the European Space Agency said: “This study highlights how high-resolution satellite images can help us monitor how the environment is changing in remote regions. Future satellites, such as the family of Copernicus Sentinel expansion missions, promise to bring enhanced continuity and capabilities that will spearhead further insight into the characteristics and processes governing ice mass balance and sea-level rise.”

Reference: “Widespread seasonal speed-up of west Antarctic Peninsula glaciers from 2014 to 2021” 27 February 2023, Nature Geoscience.
DOI: 10.1038/s41561-023-01131-4

The authors of the paper – Widespread seasonal speed-up of west Antarctic Peninsula glaciers from 2014-2021 – are Ben Wallis, Anna Hogg, and Ben Davison, all from the University of Leeds; and Jan Melchior van Wessem and Michiel van den Broeke, from the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht.

Funding: Natural Environment Research Council, European Space Agency, Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Netherlands Earth System Science Centre