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'Doomsday Glacier' Relies on a Wing and a Prayer, New Study Finds
6 September, 17:28
Science
'Doomsday Glacier' Relies on a Wing and a Prayer, New Study Finds
Photo: DW
Pictures of the sea floor have shown that over the past 200 years, the glacier has been sliding into the ocean twice as fast as previously thought. In the event of its collapse, the world's oceans could rise by 3 meters and flood coastal areas in many countries.

The Thwaites Glacier, located in West Antarctica, is the subject of close observation by scientists. The part of the glacier that is in the water melts quickly and sooner or later threatens to collapse. When this happens, the level of the world's oceans may rise by several meters, so that many coastal areas will be flooded. The collapse of the Thwaites Glacier means global cataclysms, which is why it is also called the "Doomsday Glacier".

A new study in the journal Nature Geoscience by marine geophysicists from the US, UK and Sweden only adds to the cause for concern, according to phys.org. With the help of a deep-sea robot that explored the boundary of ice and ocean, glaciologists have compiled a 3D map of the seabed. From its irregularities, one can see how the Thwaites Glacier has retreated in the past and predict what will happen in the future.

It turned out that in the past the rate of melting was much faster. At some point in the last 200 years, the glacier was retreating at a rate of more than 2.1 kilometers per year. This is twice as fast as was recorded from satellites in 2011-2019. That is, the opinion that the Antarctic ice sheet is stable and changes slowly is fundamentally wrong. Thwaites stands by his word of honor, and you need to be prepared for dramatic changes that can happen almost instantly.

Now the area of \u200b\u200bthe Thwaites Glacier is 192,000 square kilometers (about the size of the UK), and its thickness reaches 4,000 meters. The Doomsday Glacier is a key factor in predicting global sea level rise, as it is extremely unstable: warm water from the ocean flows onto the continental shelf and reaches the so-called lean line, where the ice sheet melts.

The study is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.