The rapid melting of Antarctica’s Florida-sized Thwaites glacier, also known as Doomsday Glacier, has sparked global concern.
As per two studies published in the science journal Nature on February 15, US-UK scientists from the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration revealed that warm water is seeping into the weak areas of the glacier, threatening its collapse as well as a major sea rise.
Although the melting of the ice is slower than expected, the Doomsday glacier could still increase the sea-level rise by 65 centimeters.
Since the ’90s, the grounding line of the glacier – the point where ice transitions from grounded ice to free-flowing ice shelf – has already withdrawn by 14 kilometers, which has resulted in the ice flowing out of the region being doubled.
The root cause and process of melting happening at the grounding line is yet to be uncovered.
Melting of Doomsday Glacier can impact the rest of the world
As per National Geographic, the melting of the Doomsday Glacier can lead to the world’s oceans rising by a few feet.
Rising sea levels may cause damaging erosion, wetland flooding, salt pollution of aquifers, agricultural soil, and loss of habitat for fish, birds, and plants, all of which affect how we eat and our susceptibility to illness.
Moreover, as per the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, rising oceans make hurricanes and other storms more deadly by increasing storm surges and floods. Warming ocean temperatures cause storms to absorb warmer water and keep it for longer, dumping potentially catastrophic rains farther inland.
As for the recent study, researchers from the UK and the US used an underwater robot, Icefin, and remote sensing to observe the activity beneath the Doomsday Glacier for the first time.
The researchers found that the ice shelf’s base had terrace-like structures formed due to warm water. In these areas as well as the cracks, the melting is happening faster than predicted.
Lead author of the study, Britney Schmidt from Cornell University, said in an interview with Reuters:
“These new ways of observing the glacier allow us to understand that it’s not just how much melting is happening, but how and where it is happening that matters in these very warm parts of Antarctica. Warm water is getting into the weakest parts of the glacier and making it worse. That is the kind of thing we should all be very concerned about.”
Peter Davis, a British Antarctic Survey oceanographer, stated that the Doomsday Glacier is “still in trouble.”
“What we have found is that despite small amounts of melting there is still rapid glacier retreat, so it seems that it doesn’t take a lot to push the glacier out of balance.”
Crevasses have also been seen moving over the glacier’s surface, prompting experts to anticipate that they may one day play a significant part in the glacier’s collapse.
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