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Glacier Surge May Cause Huge Rise in Sea Level

A surge of Antarctic glaciers into the oceans could cause a dramatic rise in sea levels, and an area of the continent the size of Texas could be about to do just that. This area is known to be the least stable in the Antarctic.

The largest of the glaciers, the Pine Island Glacier, seems to be the least stable. It is now dropping more ice into the ocean than any other glacier in Antarctica. The ice is over a mile deep, twenty miles wide and is moving into the ocean at two miles a year.

In BBC News, Martin Redfern, reporting from the Rothera Research Station in Antarctica, quotes researcher David Vaughan as saying, "It has been called the weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the reason for that is that this is the area where the bed beneath the ice sheet dips down steepest towards the interior. If there is a feedback mechanism to make the ice sheet unstable, it will be most unstable in this region."

Redfern researcher Julian Scott, who has just returned from Rothera, as saying, "This is a very important glacier; it's putting more ice into the sea than any other glacier in Antarctica. It's a couple of kilometers thick, its 30km wide and it's moving at 3.5km per year, so it's putting a lot of ice into the ocean."

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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