Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier – also called the “Doomsday Glacier” is a matter of grave concern due to its enormous potential to raise the sea level which will be caused by its melting due to the warm water underneath which was overlooked in past.
Thwaites Glacier is 120 km wide at its broadest and melting fast over the years. Because of its size (1.9 lakh square km), it contains enough water to raise the world sea level by more than half a meter. Studies have found the amount of ice flowing out of it has nearly doubled over the past 30 years.
Its melting constitutes approximately 4 per cent of the total global sea-level rise every year and is predicted to collapse into the sea in 200 to 900 years.
Researchers at the Sweden’s University of Gothenburg are now saying that fears related to Thwaites’s melting are worse than previously thought.
They used an uncrewed submarine to go under the Thwaites glacier front to make observations.
“These were the first measurements ever performed beneath Thwaites glacier,” said Anna Wåhlin, professor of oceanography at the University of Gothenburg and lead author of the study that has been published in Science Advances.
Using the results of the observations of characteristics like temperature, salinity, and oxygen content of the ocean currents that go under the glacier, researchers have been able to find out the ocean currents that flow under Thwaites and cause its melting to speed up.
The researchers have deduced the three channels which bring warm water to glacier from north. The channels for warm water to access and attack Thwaites weren’t known to us before the research. Using sonars on the ship, nested with very high-resolution ocean mapping from Ran, we were able to find that there are distinct paths that water takes in and out of the ice shelf cavity, influenced by the geometry of the ocean floor,” the press release quoted Dr. Alastair Graham of the University of Southern Florida as saying.
Thwaites is crucial for Antarctica as it restricts the movement of free-floating ice in the ocean. But research showed that warm water is impacting the points of the glacier where it is connected to the sea-bed and finds stability of its ice sheets and hence making the situation distressing as Thwaites’ ice shelf is already retreating.