A temporary cooling of the ocean around Antarctica's fastest-melting glacier failed to stop its retreat into the sea.

The Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is currently the largest glacial contributor to global sea-level rise. Knut Christianson at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues used Global Positioning System receivers, ocean moorings and satellite radar observations to monitor the glacier and the adjacent ocean from 2009 to 2014. They found that a 60% drop in ocean heat content between 2012 and 2013 did not slow the overall thinning of the ice sheet, which boosts glacier flow and ice discharge into the ocean.

Cold ocean and climate conditions would probably need to persist for several decades to reverse the glacier's retreat, the authors say.

Geophys. Res. Lett. http://doi.org/br3p (2016)