According to a news release from the study, the researchers concluded that the glacier has “lost contact with the seafloor ridge” and is now retreating at a rate of 1.3 miles per year — double what they predicted between 2011 and 2019.
Unlike some other glaciers attached to dry land, the Thwaites land on the sea floor, which is highly vulnerable to warming waters resulting from human-induced climate change. The Thwaites already account for 4 percent of annual sea-level rise.
“You can’t take the Thwaites away and leave the rest of Antarctica intact,” Alastair Graham, a marine geologist at the University of South Florida and co-author of the study, said in a telephone interview.
He described the consequences of Thwaites’ loss of “existence”.
As stated therein United NationsMore than 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of the coast—areas most affected by rising tides.
“Thwaites is really holding on today by its fingernails, and we should expect big changes on small time scales in the future – even from one year to the next – as the glacier retreats beyond a shallow ridge in its bed,” he said. Robert Larder of the British Antarctic Survey, co-author of the study.
Satellite images taken late last year showed signs of cracking in an ice sheet used to stabilize the eastern flank of Thwaites Glacier – which scientists say could cause a “spiderweb” effect across the entire wedge if hit by strong winds. The Washington Post.
However, the researchers say that the collapse of the shelf would not immediately contribute to sea-level rise, although it would accelerate the erosion of the Thwaites Glacier, causing terrestrial ice to slide away from the structure into the ocean.
Graham says his team can’t confidently predict when the ice system will melt completely, but reducing planet-warming emissions over the next 75 years is critical to its survival.
“Right now, we can do something about it — especially if the oceans stop warming,” he said.