‘Doomsday Glacier’ melting faster than expected

‘Doomsday Glacier’ melting faster than expected

Doomsday Glacier

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, known as the “Doomsday Glacier,” is melting faster than previously thought. New research shows that warm ocean water is reaching miles underneath the glacier, causing it to melt at an alarming rate. Scientists used high-resolution satellite radar data to map changes to the glacier’s grounding line, where it lifts from the seabed and becomes a floating ice shelf. They found that relatively warm, salty ocean water is meeting the ice underneath the glacier, leading to “vigorous melting.”

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that sea level rise projections may be underestimated. Eric Rignot, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and co-author of the study, explained that seawater intrusion follows the daily rhythm of tides, lifting the glacier’s surface and accelerating melting. Thwaites Glacier, approximately the size of Florida, is one of Antarctica’s most unstable glaciers.

Thwaites Glacier’s alarming melt rate

It currently contributes about 4% to global sea level rise and holds enough ice to potentially raise sea levels by more than 2 feet. If it were to collapse completely, it could lead to around 10 feet of sea level rise, threatening coastal communities worldwide. Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, noted that the study introduces a process not yet factored into current models, which could speed up ice loss forecasts. James Smith, a marine geologist at the British Antarctic Survey, emphasized the need to integrate this process into ice sheet models to improve predictions. The increasing vulnerability of Antarctica highlights the urgent need to address climate change and mitigate its impacts on global sea levels. Researchers stress that limiting carbon emissions is the best way to protect glaciers, even if the heat already in the atmosphere will linger for centuries. Slowing down the warming process could provide more time to prepare for and lessen the impacts of rising seas.

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