EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The tipping points of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica

Sebastian Rosier1, Ronja Reese2, Jonathan Donges2,3, Jan De Rydt1, Hilmar Gudmundsson1, and Ricarda Winkelmann2,4
Sebastian Rosier et al.
  • 1Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-tyne, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (
  • 2Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 4University of Potsdam, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, Potsdam, Germany

Mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet is the main source of uncertainty in projections of future sea-level rise, with important implications for coastal regions worldwide. Central to this is the marine ice sheet instability: once a critical threshold, or tipping point, is crossed, ice-internal dynamics can drive a self-amplifying retreat committing a glacier to substantial ice loss that is irreversible at time scales most relevant to human societies. This process might have already been triggered in the Amundsen Sea region, where Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers dominate the current mass loss from Antarctica. However, current modelling and observational techniques have not been able to establish this rigorously, leading to divergent views on the future mass loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Here we aim at closing this knowledge gap by conducting a systematic investigation of the tipping points of Pine Island Glacier using established early warning indicators that detect critical slowing as a system approaches a tipping point. We are thereby able to identify three distinct tipping points in response to increases in ocean-induced melt. The third and final event, triggered for less than a tripling of melt rates, leads to a retreat of the entire glacier that could initiate a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

How to cite: Rosier, S., Reese, R., Donges, J., De Rydt, J., Gudmundsson, H., and Winkelmann, R.: The tipping points of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-18424,, 2020


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