A dramatic rise in sea levels is feared amid reports that Antarctica’s so-called Doomsday Glacier is melting far faster than predicted, according to marine geophysicists with the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science and the British Antarctic Survey.
What to Know
The Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is roughly the size of Florida and is known as the “Doomsday Glacier” because it holds enough ice to raise the world’s sea level by over 3 feet.
The first-ever high-resolution mapping of the seafloor in front of the 10,000-year-old Thwaites Glacier has found that its base dislodged from the seabed some time during the past 200 years and that melting has accelerated amid recent climate changes.
Over a less than 6-month period, the Thwaites Glacier’s grounding zone retreated at a rate of more than 1.3 miles per year, which is twice the rate that had been previously observed by satellite from 2011 to 2019.
The glacier has experienced rapid retreats in the past, and big changes are expected over small time scales in the future ― even from one year to the next ― once the glacier retreats beyond a shallow ridge in its bed.
It appears that the Thwaites Glacier is becoming even more unstable the more it retreats. Some estimate that the glacier will collapse within just 5 years.
This is a summary of the article “Rapid Retreat of Thwaites Glacier in the Pre-satellite Era,” published in Nature Geoscience on September 5, 2022. The full article can be found on nature.com.
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