NASA warn ‘dangerous’ Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica on verge of COLLAPSE

NASA warn ‘dangerous’ Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica on verge of COLLAPSE

NASA warn ‘dangerous’ Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica on verge of COLLAPSE

Although Thwaites Glacier is one of the hardest places on Earth to reach, more of its secrets will soon be revealed.

A giant, growing cavern two-thirds the area of Manhattan is contributing to the rapid melting of Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier.

Scientists say the size of the cavity under the glacier plays a key role in melting, as more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster. The common thread among them is the infiltration of relatively warm ocean water below the ice, thinning it and causing the glaciers to flow out to sea faster. Rignot is a co-author of the new study, which was published today in Science Advances.

"The findings highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers' undersides in calculating how fast global sea levels will rise in response to climate change", according to the study by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The glacier itself is about as big as the state of Florida, and, if melted completely, could raise sea levels by some 2 feet globally, the scientists say.

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The Thwaites Glacier is now responsible for 4 percent of global sea level rise.

Researchers discovered the cavity using ice-penetrating radar in Nasa's Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey launched in 2010 to study polar ice. The U.S. National Science Foundation and British National Environmental Research Council are mounting a five-year field project to answer the most critical questions about its processes and features. The melting of this glacier could lead to as much as 10 feet of sea level rise over the next century or so.

"We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat", first author of the new paper, JPL radar scientist Pietro Milillo explains.

The glacier is retreating in the face of the warming ocean and is thought to be unstable because its interior lies more than two kilometres below sea level while, at the coast, the bottom of the glacier is quite shallow.

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The glacier has been coming unstuck from a ridge in the bedrock at a steady rate of about 0.6 to 0.8 kilometers a year since 1992.

Despite this high rate of retreat, melt rates are still higher on the western side, where the void is located.

The complex pattern the new readings reveal - which don't fit with current ice sheet or ocean models - suggest scientists have more to learn about how water and ice interact with one another in the frigid but warming Antarctic environment.

The Thwaites Glacier actually holds in neighbouring glaciers and ice masses further inland. Hopefully, the upcoming global collaboration will help researchers piece together the different systems at work under and around the glacier, the researchers said.

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