New research confirms that “doomsday glacier” in Antarctica is in grave danger

Scientists call it Doomsday Ice.

This is partly because the Thwaites, a British-sized glacier in western Antarctica, is melting at an alarming rate: it is retreating by about a half a mile (2,625 feet) per year. Scientists estimate that the glacier will lose all of its ice in about 200 to 600 years. When you do, you will Sea level rise by about 1.6-2 feet (0.5 m).

But sea level rise will not stop there. The title Thwaites mostly stems from what will happen after it dissolves.

Currently, the glacier acts as a buffer between the rising sea temperature and other glaciers. Its collapse could send neighboring ice blocks in West Antarctica to fall with it. In addition, this process will raise sea levels by about 10 feet, permanently inundating many coastal areas including parts of New York City, Miami and the Netherlands.

“It’s a big change, a rewriting of the coastline,” David Holland, professor of atmospheric sciences at New York University who is contributing research to the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, To PBS NewsHour in February.

This moth, two new studies add detail to the worrying picture. Research published last week in the journal ice I found that Warm ocean currents may erode in the Lower Thwaites Glacier.

A study published Monday, meanwhile, Use of satellite imagery To show that parts of Thwaites and its neighbor, Pine Island Glacier, are disintegrating more quickly than previously thought. This work was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The images below reveal what is happening to the Thwaites Mountains and nearby glaciers, along with what might happen in the future.

The melting of the Thwaites and Pine Glaciers already accounts for about 5 percent of the global sea level rise.

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(Lhermitte et al., PNAS, 2020)

above: Satellite imagery between October 2014 and May 2019 shows massive damage to the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers.

It’s not just thwaites: the Antarctic ice sheet is there It melts six times faster Than it was in the eighties. It drops 252 billion tons a year, up from 40 billion tons a year 40 years ago.

If the entire Antarctic ice sheet melted, scientists would estimate sea levels It will rise by 200 feet (60 meters).

Images captured from space before and after thwaites thaw at sea.

“What satellites show us are glaciers that disintegrate at the seams,” said Ted Scampus, a senior scientist at the University of Colorado, NASA in February.

This rapid melting is happening in part because the natural barriers that maintain the Thwaites and Pine Glaciers are breaking apart, according to new research.

Thwaites 2(Ian Joggin / University of Washington)

above: Fissures near the grounding of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica.

Cracks like those in the Pine Island Glacier image above form near shear margins in glaciers: regions where fast-moving glaciers or slow-moving rocks meet, keeping them contained.

the new PNAS a study He found that the shear margins of Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers weaken and disintegrate, which could cause an outflow of ice into the ocean.

The impending loss of Thwaites Glacier is so alarming that the United States and the United Kingdom have set up an international agency to study it.

That organization International Cooperation of Thwaites Glacier, Studying glaciers through icebreaking vessels that can penetrate thick ice sheets.

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In February, researchers discovered a bore roughly the size of Manhattan on the underside of Thwaites.

Thwaites 3(NASA / OIB / Jeremy Harbeck)

above: A cavity about 1,000 feet high grows at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

The cavity that NASA scientists found With ice-penetrating radar in 2019, it would have contained 14 billion tons of ice.

The diagram below shows how the warm currents move underwater down the glacier, slowly melting it from the bottom up.

(International Cooperation of Thwaites Glacier)(International Cooperation of Thwaites Glacier)

above: 3D diagram of Thwaites Glacier, showing sea floor channels that would carry warm water to the underside of the glacier and cause melt.

When the layers of ice melt from below, They can lose their hullThis makes them dissolve faster and break apart in the ocean, as Thwaites does.

Researchers estimate that the Pine Island Glacier has lost an area the size of Los Angeles in the past six years.

“These are the first signs we’re seeing that the Pine Island Ice Shelf is disappearing,” said Steve Lermmitt, a satellite expert and lead author at PNAS a study, Th said Washington Post.

This damage is difficult to recover. “

Sea level rise could affect up to 800 million people by 2050, according to a 2018 report.

Thwaites 5(Central climate)

above: A projection of what sea level would look like in New York City with sea level rise of 10 feet.

Report, from Climate Network C40 CitiesIt was found that sea level rise could threaten the energy supply of 470 million people and regularly expose 1.6 billion people to extremely hot temperatures.

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