Better understanding of Antarctic glacier fissures

If the Pine Island Glacier and the Thwaites Glacier on Western Antarctica crumble and collapse into the sea, this would lead to a sharp rise in sea level. These glaciers have been squeaking and cracking for years, but scientists now understand better how the cracks are formed. Researchers, including Stef Lhermitte from the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, have combined satellite images from various sources to get a better picture of the rapid development of fissures and cracks in the shear zones of the ice sheets. These glacier fissures and cracks are the first signs that the shear zones are weakening. Research using models shows that the occurrence of this type of damage triggers a feedback process which accelerates cracking and weakening. The researchers are sharing their findings this week in PNAS. Lhermite also shows the process on his own pageflow page.

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