NASA satellites in January made a disturbing discovery on the George VI ice shelf in Antarctica, recording a giant lake of melt water. According to scientists from the University of Maryland and the Goddard Space Center, the ice melting on the shelf is one of the largest in the last 50 years, according to Express.co.uk.
The colossal ice pack on the Antarctic Peninsula is subject to seasonal melting every year. The latest ice loss period from 2019 to 2020 has been particularly troubling. The large patch of melt water seen from space on the George VI Ice Shelf is 138 km long.
NASA scientists have yet to figure out why the ice shelf is melting at such an alarming rate. Previously, seasonal melting was caused by winds that sent warm air along the surface of the ice shelf. The dense cloud cover also played a role, capturing long-wavelength radiation and reflecting it in the direction of the ice.
According to glaciologists, such meltwater ponds can destabilize the entire ice shelf, increasing the stresses acting on the surface. Water can seep through cracks in the ice, destroying the mass at depth and propelling it on land.
The ice shelf of George VI is 450 km long and 20 to 70 km wide. Data collected by NASA satellites show that the rate of Antarctic ice loss is about 127 gigatons per year.