Pine Island Glacier, a major outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, has been undergoing rapid thinning and retreat for the past two decades. We demonstrate, using glacial-geological and geochronological data, that Pine Island Glacier (PIG) also experienced rapid thinning during the early Holocene, around 8000 years ago. Cosmogenic 10Be concentrations in glacially transported rocks show that this thinning was sustained for decades to centuries at an average rate of more than 100 centimeters per year, which is comparable with contemporary thinning rates. The most likely mechanism was a reduction in ice shelf buttressing. Our findings reveal that PIG has experienced rapid thinning at least once in the past and that, once set in motion, rapid ice sheet changes in this region can persist for centuries.
Helmholtz Research Programs > PACES II (2014-2018) > TOPIC 3: The earth system from a polar perspective > WP 3.2: Earth system on tectonic time scales: From greenhouse to icehouse world