Whereas once the ice lifted from the ridge and shifted backwards, the sediment layering became different, finer and more characteristic of the influence of the ocean and warm circumpolar deep waters. Thus, the researchers could date when the ice began to lift from the ridge and when it had completed the process of doing so. And they conclude that a little after the El Nino of 1939 to 1942, an ocean cavity opened up behind the ridge, one that warm waters could get into a first sign of destabilization. However, the ice did not lift fully off the ridge until around 1970, the researchers believe. The unavoidablequestion is what this sequence of events says about our own responsibility for destabilizing Pine Island (and, perhaps, other West Antarctic glaciers). The world was less warm in the 1940s, after all, and the role of human-caused global warming on El Nino events remains debated. For their part, the authors insist theyre staying neutral on the human role, known in the science world as anthropogenic theyre just reporting new, extremely hard-to-get observations. Teasing out whether the processes, the mechanisms that were talking about were related to anthropogenic forcing was never really the focus of this paper, says James Smith, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic Survey whos the first author of the study. The 1940s is potentially a few years before the really big spike in anthropogenic-forced warming but its certainly within the realms of human-induced change. Smith also noted that while other glaciers in the region have also been retreating including the very dangerous one at Thwaites , which is even bigger than the one at Pine Island the study couldnt say whether they, too, were in effect pushed by the same factors in the 1940s.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/23/west-antarctica-is-in-big-trouble-but-now-scientists-say-that-may-date-back-to-1945/
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