London, August 14 (ANI): A new research has determined that one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago.
Professor Duncan Wingham of University College London (UCL) led the research team.
According to a report by BBC News, the study of satellite measurements of Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica reveals the surface of the ice is now dropping at a rate of up to 16m a year.
Since 1994, the glacier has lowered by as much as 90m, which has serious implications for sea-level rise.
"We've known that it's been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier, said Andrew Shepherd from the Leeds University.
Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years.
But, the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.
The rate of loss is fastest in the centre of the glacier and the concern is that if the process continues, the glacier may break up and start to affect the ice sheet further inland.
One of the research authors, Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University, said that the melting from the centre of the glacier would add about 3cm to global sea level.
"But the ice trapped behind it is about 20-30cm of sea level rise and as soon as we destabilize or remove the middle of the glacier we don't know really know what's going to happen to the ice behind it," he told BBC News.
"This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We've known that it's been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier," said Shepherd.
Pine Island glacier has been the subject of an intense research effort in recent years amid fears that its collapse could lead to a rapid disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet.
According to Professor Jason Box of Ohio State University, "The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First, it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland, we find retreat at major glaciers. It's like removing a cork from a bottle." (ANI)