Last year, a 225 square-mile chunk of West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier broke off and tumbled into the sea. Now, Earth scientists at Ohio State University have pinpointed the root cause of the iceberg calving event: a crack that started deep below ground and 20 miles inland. It’s like nothing scientists have witnessed in West Antarctica before, and it doesn’t bode well for the ice sheet’s future.
One can’t help but note that NASA’s Earth science program, which makes such data available to scientists and the public, faces the possibility of major cuts under a Trump administration. These cuts would come at the precise moment when our planet is changing in rapid and hard-to-predict ways, which is when Earth science research is needed the most. Like cracks in an ice sheet, the irony runs deep.