They found that the pattern of thinning is evolving in complex ways both in space and time with thinning rates now highest along the slow-flow margins of the glacier, while rates in the fast-flowing central trunk have decreased by about a factor of five since 2007. This is the opposite of what was observed prior to 2010.
Pine Island has contributed more to sea level rise over the past four decades than any other glacier in Antarctica, and as a consequence has become one of its most intensively and extensively investigated ice stream systems.
However, different model projections of future mass loss give conflicting results; some suggesting mass loss could dramatically increase over the next few decades, resulting in a rapidly growing contribution to sea level, while others indicate a more moderate response.
Identifying which is the more likely behaviour is important for understanding future sea level rise and how this vulnerable part of Antarctica is going to evolve over the coming decades.
The results of the new study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggest that rapid migration of the grounding line, the place where the grounded ice first meets the ocean, is unlikely over that timescale, without a major change in ocean forcing.
Read more at University of Bristol