News FocusFALL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION, 14–18 DECEMBER 2009, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Antarctic Glacier Off Its Leash

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Science  22 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5964, pp. 409
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5964.409-a

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Summary

An unmanned autonomous submarine has discovered a sea-floor ridge that may have been the last hope for stopping the now-accelerating retreat of the Pine Island Glacier, a crumbling keystone of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, researchers announced at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The ridge appears to have once protected the glacier, but no more. The submarine found the glacier floating well off the ridge and warmer, ice-melting water passing over the ridge and farther under the ice. And no survey, underwater or airborne, has found another such glacier-preserving obstacle for the next 250 kilometers landward.