Editors' ChoiceIce Shelves

Unwelcome rifts

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Science  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6319, pp. 1547
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6319.1547-a

Rifts in floating ice shelves lead to their disintegration and mass loss from ice sheets.


Ice sheets have ice shelves, which continually break apart to form icebergs when the shelves grow too large for their environment. This is normal and typically occurs independently of the conditions of the ocean on which they float. However, a recent rifting event in the middle of the Pine Island Glacier of Antarctica seems to be the result of ocean forcing, report Jeong et al. This development is not a welcome one, because Pine Island Glacier appears already to have begun an irreversible retreat due to global warming, one of the effects of which is to increase ocean temperatures near many ice shelves. —HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1002/2016GL071360 (2016).

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