Thwaites Glacier, dubbed the ‘doomsday’ glacier, is losing ice at a rate not seen in more than 5,500 years, according to a new study, raising concerns about the Florida-sized glacier’s future and global sea level rise.
The glacier has become a focal point on the long list of natural features threatened by a warming climate, hence the nickname given to it when it was announced in January 2020 that hot water was present under the glacier. of 74,000 square miles located in West Antarctica. .
The new dangers facing the glacier were highlighted in a peer-reviewed study published Thursday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The researchers came to their conclusion by analyzing prehistoric seashells and penguin bones on Arctic beaches using radiocarbon dating. These fossils, which were over 5,000 years old, existed when Earth was much warmer than it is today, even with today’s rising global temperatures. Through this process, the researchers were able to determine when these beaches appeared and the local sea level around them.
The results showed that the glacier began shedding ice at a steady rate during this period around 5,000 years ago., with a local rate of sea level rise of 0.14 inches per year. However, over the past 30 years, this rate has increased to 1.57 inches per year, a rate not seen for 5,500 years.
“These currently high rates of ice melt may signal that these vital arteries in the heart of (the West Antarctic ice sheet) have ruptured, leading to an acceleration of flow in the ocean that is potentially disastrous for the future global level. of the sea in a warming world,” Dylan Rood, co-author and professor of engineering at Imperial College London, said in a statement.
The glacier is already contributing to sea level rise, as ice flowing from it into the Amundsen Sea already accounts for around 4% of global sea level rise, according to Thwaites Glacier International. Collaboration.
The ice loss comes months after another group of researchers said the eastern ice shelf holding the ‘apocalyptic’ glacier in place has cracks that could lead to its collapse within the next three to five years, exposing it to seawater and leading to eventual cliff failures.
Collapse: The Ice Shelf is collapsing in East Antarctica for the first time in human history. It’s the size of New York.
‘Not a good sign’: The temperature was 70 degrees above average near the South Pole, a troubling record
The glacier’s eventual disappearance could cause global sea levels to rise by up to a foot in the next century, American Geophysical Union scientists said in December, threatening many coastal cities around the world.
Researchers do not lose hope; they said they will drill through the glacier to collect rocks below, which could determine whether the accelerated melting could be reversed or not.
“We now urgently need to determine if it’s too late to stop the bleeding,” Rood said.
Contributor: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
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