Ice shelves play a key role in the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheets by buttressing their seaward-flowing outlet glaciers; however, they are exposed to the underlying ocean and may weaken if ocean thermal forcing increases. An expedition to the ice shelf of the remote Pine Island Glacier, a major outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that has rapidly thinned and accelerated in recent decades, has been completed. Observations from geophysical surveys and long-term oceanographic instruments deployed down bore holes into the ocean cavity reveal a buoyancy-driven boundary layer within a basal channel that melts the channel apex by 0.06 meter per day, with near-zero melt rates along the flanks of the channel. A complex pattern of such channels is visible throughout the Pine Island Glacier shelf.
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