El Niño effect tied to melting of Pine Island Glacier

By on January 14, 2014
A nascent iceberg breaks off Pine Island Glacier's calving front. (Credit: NASA)

A nascent iceberg breaks off Pine Island Glacier's calving front. (Credit: NASA)

The El Niño effect plays a role in the ongoing melting of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, according to a release from the University of Washington. Researchers at the university say that wind on the ice sheet is largely affected by the weather pattern.

Earlier studies indicate the glacier’s melt is advanced by warm water that flows beneath. But researchers from the the British Antarctic Survey say the melting has a more complex explanation overall.

The warmer ocean water that flows beneath the glacier has been affected by the flow of deep water across a seafloor ridge. This flow is largely influenced by wind, which itself is dependent on El Niño in the tropical Pacific. Depending on wind activities in the tropical Pacific, switching from El Niño to La Niña, researchers say Pine Island Glacier’s melt can increase or decrease.

Image: A nascent iceberg breaks off Pine Island Glacier’s calving front. (Credit: NASA)

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