The National Aeronautics And Space Administration (NASA) has released new images of the most significant melt event ever observed on the George VI ice shelf in Antarctica.
The photographs were taken on January 19, 2020. The images display a large body of water lying atop the shelf, which is a piece of floating glacier ice connected to the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Alison Banwell is a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder who noticed the meltwater in pictures taken by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite. She said, “This is the largest melt case we know to have happened on the George VI ice rock.”
She added, “What is a concern is if George VI seems like this, other ice rocks on the land have lots of meltwater too, and those ice rocks are less stable.”
This is not the first time when scientists have observed these melting glaciers. But this is the biggest pool of water discovered on the frozen iceberg.
Christopher Shuman is a glaciologist from the University of Maryland. She said, “It is the only whole view of such a widespread surface melt event on the George VI Ice Shelf captured in [50 years].”
The reason for the extreme melting of George VI this year is not yet apparent to scientists. The earlier melts were caused by changing wind patterns that induced warm air close to the surface or by excessive cloudiness that confined longwave radiation and returned it onto the ice.
It is worried that the warm conditions undergone by George VI could have scattered further across the continent. Scientists have also said that unlike most ice shelves that scatter out over the open ocean, George VI is packed between the Antarctic Peninsula and Alexander Island.
Due to its surroundings, it compresses the ice between two landmasses and makes it stable, suggesting it is unlikely to fall.
The scientists and other glaciologists are figuring out the exact reason that led to this sudden melting of the glacier.