But we also have to prepare for some of the inevitable sea level rise that is coming our way. Officially called the Thwaites Glacier, this mass of ice nestled into the western edge of Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate. By “do something,” Muto means addressing climate change, the force pushing Thwaites to melt. If and when this might happen, however, is what researchers are trying to learn. According to the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, the amount of ice flowing out of the Thwaites and nearby glaciers has nearly doubled over the last 30 years. But if Thwaites melts enough that it lifts off, the ice sheet will be exposed, too. Few places in Antarctica are more difficult to reach than Thwaites Glacier, a Florida-sized hunk of frozen water that meets the Amundsen Sea about 800 miles west of McMurdo. It’s melting — fast. Thwaites Glacier today is rapidly losing mass in response to changing atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Thwaites Glacier accounts for one-third of the mass loss from the ASE.” Scientists discovered the hole thanks to Italian and German satellites, as well as NASA’s Operation IceBridge, a program that since 2010 has used ice-penetrating radar aboard aircraft flying over Antarctica to study connections between polar regions and global climate. Robel, along with scientists Helene Seroussi and Gerard Roe used mathematical analysis and computer models to make projections of sea levels in the future. The Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier originates in Antarctica and extends into the Amundsen Sea. “Those kinds of questions are really important because understanding the problem is only one piece of figuring out how we all respond to it," Schmidt says. The key to West Antarctica’s future is the Thwaites glacier. Learn more about the eight projects that are part of ITGC, © 2020 CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder. “But still, how much and how fast that is going to increase into the decades and centuries is still uncertain.”. Will Carbon Labels on Our Food Turn us Into Climatarians? Indeed, Thwaites Glacier is one of the largest contributors to global sea level rise from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Thwaites is one of the fastest-flowing glaciers in Antarctica and would be the structure responsible should something in the West Antarctic destabilize, Indrani Das, associate research professor at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and co-principle investigator for a project at the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, told ABC News. discovermagazine.com. Called the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, the mission brings scientists (including Holschuh and Muto) down to the glacier to inspect how it’s changing through a barrage of studies. • Log In, Disintegration of Marine Ice-sheets Using Novel Optimised Simulations (DOMINOS), Processes, drivers, Prediction: modeling the History and Evolution of Thwaites (PROPHET), Thwaites-Amundsen Regional Survey and Network Integrating Atmosphere-Ice-Ocean Processes (TARSAN), Deep channels link ocean to Antarctic glacier, Plans for International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration in response to COVID-19, New Sights in the Second Field Season of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. Read our privacy policy. Many climate scientists regard Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica as one of the most vulnerable and most significant glaciers in the world in terms of future global sea-level rise. They wanted to understand how possible scenarios of future sea level rise might change over time as a result of marine ice sheet instability. “Not only that… Link to Antarctica Week Webpage. “Because it’s uncertain, Thwaites has the potential to really be the Doomsday Glacier. Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica flows over mountains that stick out of the overlying ice. Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier may be thinning faster than previously thought The disturbing conclusion comes from a new look at vintage film … The water, which now sits above the freezing temperature of ice, melts the glacier faster than new ice can form. It also has the potential to not be so bad,” Muto says. Scientists carry out work to monitor Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier British Antarctic Survey. It's swiftly melting, and a collapse could cause a dramatic increase in sea level rise. Runoff Collected by Volunteers Offers Clues. Top video: Drone footage captures the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel surrounded by … A project within the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to substantially improve decadal and longer-term projections of ice loss and sea-level rise originating from Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. As the ice disappears, the grounding line retreats and less of Thwaites sits on the rock. Britney Schmidt, a geophysicist at Georgia Tech, has, in a way, dove down to give the junction a close look. To be clear, Thwaites melting is concerning on its own. Which makes me optimistic that we're going to learn a lot.”. Super Typhoon Goni Churns Toward the Philippines as the Globe's Strongest Storm of 2020, "Insanely Warm" Arctic Ocean Waters Are Delaying Freeze-Up and Pouring Heat Into the Atmosphere. UK and US scientists are collaborating to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier, roughly the same size as Florida or Britain. Not by a long shot. UK and US scientists are collaborating to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier, roughly the same size as … Understanding why it’s retreating so quickly has been a challenge, but glaciologists have recently discovered that the glacier is now generating its … Over the past 30 years, ice … And by itself, it contains enough ice to raise sea levels by about 2 feet. Thwaites Glacier is one of the world’s most unstable glaciers. Learn more about the mission. Like other glaciers, Thwaites has a long, thin tongue of ice that sticks out into seawater. Getting answers to these critical questions about Thwaites is driving a multiyear, international research expedition. This Antarctic colossus is melting at a rapid rate, dumping billions of tonnes of ice in … Thwaites Glacier could be "a keystone to triggering ice loss from neighboring portions of West Antarctica," said Paul Cutler, program director of glaciology, ice … Waits patiently, quietly, and long-term, perhaps even indefinitely. “It has really allowed us to look at this system in a totally new way. “The more this marine ice sheet instability occurs, the wider the range of possible future sea level rise becomes,” Robel says. If completely liquified, Thwaites would raise sea levels by 1.5 to 3 feet. Thwaites Glacier is extremely remote; the study sites on the glacier are about 1,000 miles away from both the UK’s British Antarctic Survey Rothera Research Station and the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station. That pace of change is what caught people’s … Want it all? Here, warm water is pushed up onto the continental shelf, where it flows along the bottom until it reaches the floating ice shelf in front of Thwaites Glacier. But researchers still don’t know exactly how much of the glacier will melt or when, which makes it difficult to know if the ice sheet sitting beyond Thwaites will wash away, too. Is Rainwater Safe to Drink? It would be nearly impossible to predict how much sea levels will rise down to the exact inch, day, or year. The concern over the fate of this particular patch of ice dates to the 1970s, when scientists published some of the first papers explaining how the very shape of Thwaites and the continent it connects to makes for precarious melting conditions. The glacier is big and disappearing faster than others in the region. Antarctica's Thwaites glacier has warm water from three directions well under it threatening to destroy the ice sheet and raise global sea levels by up to two feet. Their ability to learn more than ever before about the glacier puts a slightly positive spin on the Doomsday Glacier. The Florida-sized glacier extends deep into the heart of the Antarctica ice sheet. Beach shorelines would be three feet shallower than they are now — and storm surges during severe weather events would reach farther and deeper inland than ever before. Notice the size of the glacier’s main ice tongue in 2001, when the glacier was advancing by about 4 kilometers per year. Thwaites Glacier, also known as the "doomsday glacier", is reported to be melting quicker than previously thought - scientists are now trying to find out why. How Do Climate Models Predict Global Warming? Get unlimited access when you subscribe. When exposed ice sits lower than the water, there’s no stopping the melt, Schmidt says. Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine. Scientists may just have identified Thwaites Glacier's Achilles heel. Why Scientists Are So Worried About Antarctica's Doomsday Glacier. Thwaites Glacier is a fragile piece of one of the most rapidly changing places on Earth. So long as Thwaites connects with the earth beneath it, the glacier will block warm waters from creeping up to the broader, thicker ice — the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet — sitting behind it. The flow speed of Thwaites has been increasing, while inland snowfall has not changed significantly. Its rate of loss has doubled in the past three decades, earning it the moniker “doomsday glacier.”. “If you were to zoom out and look at the whole picture, there's just this bright red spot to the edge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where Thwaites and [neighboring glacier] Pine Island are thinning like crazy.”, The rate at which Thwaites is slipping away and contributing to sea level rise is only half the reason researchers are concerned about its loss. Thwaites Glacier is one of the largest and most unstable ice streams in Antarctica. Whatever Happened to the Hole in the Ozone Layer? The project is a collaboration between the National Science Foundation and the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council, which independently recognized that Thwaites was a crucial but under-scrutinized glacier when it comes to understanding future sea level rise. And here’s a moral of this Thwaites video, adapted freely from Las Vegas tourism interests: What happens in Antarctica, and in particular in this instance at Thwaites, doesn’t stay in Antarctica. Summary. It's a giant mass of more than 192,000 square kilometers (74,000 square miles) -- … A scientific expedition to Thwaites glacier aims to provide vital information about the dangers of melting Antarctic ice Tue 7 Jan 2020 13.32 EST Last modified on … Human-caused climate change has warmed ocean waters that swirl around the grounding line. A look at maps of the region's ice loss makes this clear, says Nick Holschuh, a geologist at Amherst College. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition. The growing cavity sits in West Antarctica at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier, which is about as big as Florida and contains enough ice to contribute more than 2 … The paper notes that Thwaites glacier covers 74,000 sq miles (192,000 sq km), and is particularly susceptible to climate change. “We do know that Thwaites Glacier is quite important,” says Atsuhiro Muto, a polar geophysicist at Temple University. Runaway Glacier. Officially called the Thwaites Glacier, this mass of ice nestled into the western edge of Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate. “This is going to challenge our logistics and science effort in … Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news. This interface is called the grounding line. To behave accordingly — like put up sea walls or move out of low-lying areas — policymakers need to know how much and how fast the waterline will encroach. Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is Now Causing Earthquakes. As part of the international Thwaites mission, Schmidt and her team navigated a robot submarine down to the grounding line to get a detailed understanding of the ice shape and conditions, as this is where the most important melting action is happening. “The water will flow in, the ice will thin rapidly, and then the whole thing that's been stable and sitting on a continent for thousands of years will go away.”. Thwaites Glacier is one of Antarctica’s largest contributors to sea level rise from Antarctica. If you were to dive into the water beneath the protruding, visible ice and swim downward, you’d eventually see that Thwaites makes contact with rock. And unlike the currently melting glacier, the ice sheet extends into a pit in the Earth’s crust that gets as deep as 1.5 miles below sea level in some places. Thwaites Glacier. If Thwaites Glacier collapses, it would change global coastlines forever. If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. If Thwaites melts away, that much-larger ice block will add water to our oceans as well, further driving up sea level rise. But researchers are keeping close tabs on what's happening to the glacier, which will give them a much better shot at providing specific indications about where the situation is headed. Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Thwaites Glacier in western Antarctica is in serious danger. Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 … The GHOST team will survey these mountains. “But as long as we still have that potential for it to be bad, we need to be doing something about it so that we don’t actually tend towards that worst-case scenario.”. A look at maps of the region's ice loss makes this clear, says Nick Holschuh, a geologist at Amherst College. Glaciers everywhere might be melting, but only one has earned the most terrifying nickname: the Doomsday Glacier. However, statements or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) is delighted to bring you the Antarctica Week Festival 2020 where students and the public have a unique opportunity to listen to those working on the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration talk about what it's like to live and work in Antarctica. Behind the glacier lies an even larger body of ice that, for as long as Thwaites is intact, is protected from contact with too-warm waters. Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica, is of particular concern to scientists. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number NSF-PLR 1738913, and reviewed by NSF. Glaciers everywhere might be melting, but only one has earned the most terrifying nickname: the Doomsday Glacier. Let’s hope Thwaites in Antarctica waits. 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