Sep 17, 2020 11:45 PM EDT
If the Thwaites, also known as the “doomsday glacier,” in Antarctica melts, it may cause up to ten feet of sea level rise.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
The calving front of Thwaites Ice Shelf looking at the ice below the water’s surface as seen from the NASA DC-8 on Oct. 16, 2012. Note how the water acts as a blue filter. NASA’s Operation IceBridge is an airborne science mission to study Earth’s polar ice. For more information about IceBridge, visit: www.nasa.gov/icebridge (Wikimedia Commons)
The Doomsday Glacier
Thwaites is a glacier in west Antarctica which is roughly the size of Britain, which have been nicknamed by scientists as “doomsday glacier.” It was given this moniker because it is currently melting at a rapid rate, losing approximately 2,625 feet or one-half mile of ice each year.
Scientists have estimated that Thwaites will be gone after two to six centuries, and once it melts, it will contribute to sea-level rise by up to two feet.
However, the direct contribution of the glacier’s melting ice is not the only problem, because it triggers a cascade of events that worsen the rise in sea level.
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Rewriting the World Map
After Thwaites melts, its function as the buffer between other glaciers and the warming ocean will stop, triggering the collapse of nearby ice masses along with it. This will result in a rising of sea levels by almost 10 feet, which will permanently submerge many coastal cities such as parts of Miami, the Netherlands and New York,
New York University atmospheric science professor David Holland says that it will be a massive change, which will rewrite the coastline. Holland is a contributes his research work to the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration.
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Two new research studies have been published this month describing the bleak situation. The study published in Cryosphere discovered that the warm currents of the ocean could be eroding the bottom of Thwaites.
The study published in PNAS showed how sections of the Thwaites and Pine Island Glacier have faster melting rates than was thought in the past. These two glaciers melting has already increased sea levels worldwide by approximately five percent.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet
Thwaites is not the only problem. The ice sheet of the Antarctic also currently melts six times more rapidly than it did during the 1980s. It conrtibutes 252 billion tons of water per year, compared to 40 billion tons yearly four decades ago.
If the whole Antarctica ice sheet melts, it will cause a sea level rise of 200 feet.
According to University of Colorado senior scientist Ted Scambos, the satellites show that the Thwaites is being melted apart. The new study shows that this melting is due partly to the breaking up of the natural buffers sustaining Pine Glacier and Thwaites. The shear margins on Thwaites and Pine Island are losing integrity and are breaking.
Last February, researchers discovered a cavity under the doomsday glacier almost as massive as Manhattan. It would have held ice as big as 14 billion tons. It was detected last 2019.
Warm currents underneath are melting the glacier slowly from the underside, working to the top. Ice sheets that melt at the bottom melt and disintegrate more rapidly. This is what is happening to Thwaites.
Loss is as significant as L.A.
As for Pine Island Glacier, it already lost ice as large as the city of L.A. within the past six years. Lead author and satellite expert Stef Lhermitte says this ice shelf is starting to disappear.
A report says that rising sea levels can affect up to 800 million worldwide by the year 2050, with the power supply of 470 million threatened and high temperatures affecting 1.6 billion people. The threat of the doomsday glacier in Antarctica and sea level rise are just the beginning of this worldwide catastrophe.
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