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Current Affairs

Doomsday glacier

Date: 13 April 2021 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is melting very fast, speeding up the process of sea level rise due to climate change.

 

Background

The fear regarding Thwaites Glacier is so strong that it is termed the ‘Doomsday Glacier’. It is said to be melting faster than estimated.

 

Details

  • Thwaites Glacier is a 120km wide glacier that is melting very fast. The glacier contains enough water to increase the world sea level by more than half a metre. The amount of water flowing out of it has doubled over the past 30 years.

  • The melting of Thwaites contributes to about 4% of global sea level rise. Within next 200-900 years, it is expected to collapse into the sea.

  • The Thwaites is very critical to Antarctica as it prevents subsequent ice and glaciers from meeting the sea and melting.

 

Previous studies

  • Previous study has showed large cavity in the glacier that is continuously widening. Warm water has also been detected below it surface.

  • The glacier’s grounding line is retreating. This means that more glacial surface is exposed to sea water that increases chances of melting.

 

The new study

  • The new study went underground to make observations of the glacier. It measured the temperature, salinity, strength and oxygen content of the ocean currents under the glacier.

  • The study was able to detect the amount of heat transported to the glacier through ocean currents. It also estimated the strength of previous unknown currents.

 

Need for worry

  • The warm water is hitting the pinning points of the glacier where the glacier is connected to the seabed. It increases risk on stability of the glacier.

  • Using the study, the scientists can make estimates on increase in sea levels. There can also be preventive steps to reduce impact.