April 20, 2019

Melting Antarctic glacier could increase global sea levels 8 feet

05 February 2019, 02:41 | Edward Lowe

Melting Antarctic glacier could increase global sea levels 8 feet

NASA’s new study shows that Antarctica’s glaciers aren’t just melting around the edges. Warm water is melting them from beneath speeding up the rate of sea level rise

The cavity is large enough to have contained 14 billion tons of ice, most of which has melted within the last three years, say researchers. It holds enough ice to raise the world sea somewhat more than 2 feet (65 centimeters) and stopping boards neighboring glaciers that would raise ocean levels an extra 8 feet (2.4 meters) if all the ice were lost.

While researchers are still learning new things about the complex ways ice melts at the Thwaite Glacier, at its most basic, the giant cavity represents a simple (if unfortunate) scientific actuality.

The Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica covers 182,000 square kilometres - an area the size of Great Britain - and is one of the biggest in the world.

Yet the huge size and fast-moving growth rate of the hole in Thwaites was called both "disturbing" and "surprising" by researchers.

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"Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail". They've also used data from a constellation of Italian and German radars. All the data was then processed using a technique called radar interferometry to show how the ground below the surface is moving between images. Researchers on the project say that they expected to find some gaps between ice and bedrock at the bottom of the glacier where ocean water can flow in and melt the glacier from below. Hopefully, the upcoming worldwide collaboration will help researchers piece together the different systems at work under and around the glacier, the researchers said. According to current readings, sections of the ice shelf are retreating by as much as 800 meters (2,625 ft) every year.

It is up to 4000 metres and is considered a key in making projections of global sea level rise. These satellites, which are part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, have ice-penetrating radar.

Thwaites Glacier plays an instrumental role in the story of rising sea levels and climate change, so there's never been more of a drive to study and understand it. The disappearance of the ice mass would cause sea levels to rise by about two feet as well as making surrounding glaciers more likely to melt rapidly-which could cause an eight foot rise.

Civilization's most important glacier has revealed another worrying surprise to scientists.

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The Thwaites glacier is slightly smaller than the total size of the United Kingdom, approximately the same size as the state of Washington, and is located in the Amundsen Sea.

Millilo said, "For Thwaites, We are discovering different mechanisms of retreat".

From 1992 to 2011, the centre of the Thwaites grounding line retreated by almost 14 kilometres. Nevertheless, the glacier melts more slowly here than on the West side.

Another changing feature is a glacier's grounding line - the place near the edge of the continent where it lifts off its bed and starts to float on seawater.

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