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You are here News Environment This melting glacier was already the biggest source of sea level rise. Then things got worse.

This melting glacier was already the biggest source of sea level rise. Then things got worse.

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Pine Island Glacier

The Pine Island glacier was already scary. The 160-mile-long river of ice is known as “the weak underbelly” of West Antarctica. It contributes more to sea level rise than any other glacier on the continent and ranks among the fastest melting glaciers in the world.

Unlike other Antarctic glaciers, Pine Island is not sheltered from the warming ocean by a vast expanse of sea ice. The only thing preventing it from flowing directly into the Amundsen Sea embayment is a shelf of floating ice that sticks out from the glacier’s edge. This shelf is like a cork in a bottle, pressing against the stable sides of the bay to contain the tremendous pressure at its back.

But the ice shelf is tearing itself apart. It has lost one-fifth of its mass in the last five years, shedding icebergs the size of cities. Rifts have opened up in the center of the shelf, potentially adding to the instability.

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