News of the WeekGLACIOLOGY

West Antarctica's Weak Underbelly Giving Way?

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Science  24 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5376, pp. 499-500
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5376.499b

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Space radar images show that one of the glaciers flowing from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet into the sea--a glacier that has long been seen as the ice sheet's weak point--is eating into stabler ice at a startling rate. The observations, reported on page 549 of this issue of Science, show that the "grounding line" of the Pine Island Glacier--where ice resting on its bed gives way to floating ice--has been retreating inland at a rate of more than a kilometer per year, presumably because the glacier is losing mass by melting at its base.