Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Is in Critical Hazard, New Analysis Confirms

Scientists name it the doomsday glacier.

That is partly as a result of the Thwaites, a Britain-sized glacier in western Antarctica, is melting at an alarming charge: It is retreating by about half a mile (2,625 ft) per yr. Scientists estimate the glacier will lose all of its ice in about 200 to 600 years. When it does, it would elevate sea ranges by about 1.6-2 ft (zero.5 metres).


However the sea-level rise would not cease there. Thwaites’ nickname stems principally from what would occur after it melts.

Proper now, the glacier acts as a buffer between the warming sea and different glaciers. Its collapse might deliver neighbouring ice plenty in western Antarctica down with it. Added up, that course of would elevate sea ranges by almost 10 ft, completely submerging many coastal areas together with elements of New York Metropolis, Miami, and the Netherlands.

“It is a main change, a rewriting of the shoreline,” David Holland, a professor of atmospheric science at New York College who contributes analysis to the Worldwide Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, advised PBS NewsHour in February.

This moth, two new research have added element to the alarming image. Analysis printed final week within the journal Cryosphere discovered that heat ocean currents could also be consuming away on the Thwaites Glacier’s underbelly.

A research printed Monday, in the meantime, used satellite tv for pc imagery to indicate that sections of Thwaites and its neighbour, the Pine Island Glacier, are breaking up extra shortly than beforehand thought. That work was printed within the Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences. 


The pictures beneath reveal what’s occurring to the Thwaites and close by glaciers, together with what might occur sooner or later.

The melting of the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers already account for about 5 p.c of world sea-level rise.

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(Lhermitte et al., PNAS, 2020)

Above: Satellite tv for pc imagery between October 2014 and Might 2019 exhibits in depth harm to the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers.

It isn’t simply the Thwaites: The Antarctic ice sheet is melting six instances quicker than it was within the 1980s. It is shedding 252 billion tons yearly, up from 40 billion tons per yr 40 years in the past.

If your entire Antarctic ice sheet melted, scientists estimate sea ranges would rise by 200 ft (60 metres).

Earlier than-and-after photographs taken from house present the Thwaites glacier dissolving into the ocean.

“What the satellites are exhibiting us is a glacier coming aside on the seams,” Ted Scambos, a senior scientist on the College of Colorado, advised NASA in February.

This speedy melting is going on partially as a result of pure buffers holding the Thwaites and Pine Glaciers in place are breaking up, based on new analysis.

thwaites 2(Ian Joughin/College of Washington)

Above: Crevasses close to the grounding line of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica.

Crevasses like these within the picture of Pine Island Glacier above type close to glaciers’ shear margins: areas the place fast-moving glacier ice meets slower-moving ice or rock, which retains it contained.


The brand new PNAS research discovered that shear margins on the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers are weakening and breaking up, which might trigger ice to circulation into the ocean.

The looming lack of the Thwaites Glacier is so worrisome that the US and UK created a global company to review it.

That organisation, the Worldwide Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, research the glacier by way of icebreaker ships that may break by thick ice sheets.

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In February, researchers found a cavity almost the scale of Manhattan on the underside of Thwaites.

thwaites 3(NASA/OIB/Jeremy Harbeck)

Above: A cavity almost 1,000 ft tall is rising on the backside of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

The cavity, which NASA scientists discovered utilizing ice-penetrating radar in 2019, might have held 14 billion tons of ice.

The diagram beneath exhibits how heat underwater currents transfer beneath the glacier, slowly melting it from the underside up.

(International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration)(Worldwide Thwaites Glacier Collaboration)

Above: A 3D diagram of the Thwaites glacier, illustrating sea-floor channels that will carry heat water to the glacier’s underside and trigger melting.

When ice sheets soften from beneath, they’ll lose their construction, inflicting them to soften even quicker and disintegrate into the ocean, as Thwaites is doing.


Researchers calculated that the Pine Island Glacier has misplaced an space the scale of Los Angeles within the final six years.

“These are the primary indicators we see that Pine Island ice shelf is disappearing,” Stef Lhermitte, a satellite tv for pc skilled and lead writer on the PNAS research, advised the Washington Submit.

“This harm is tough to heal.”

Sea degree rise might have an effect on as many as 800 million individuals by 2050, based on a 2018 report.

thwaites 5(Local weather Central)

Above: A projection of what New York Metropolis’s sea ranges would appear to be with 10 ft of sea-level rise.

The report, from the C40 Cities local weather community, discovered that sea-level rise might threaten the facility provide to 470 million individuals and recurrently expose 1.6 billion individuals to excessive excessive temperatures.

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This text was initially printed by Enterprise Insider.

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