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“Doomsday” glacier’s last-remaining ice shelf could collapse within 5 years, and scientists warn it could rapidly raise sea levels

Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, generally known as the “doomsday glacier,” is so huge that it has the facility to raise sea levels by a number of toes if it melts. Now, scientists are warning that its solely remaining ice shelf — a brace that helps stop the glacier’s whole collapse — could solely final just a few extra years.

The glacier is about 74,000-square-miles — roughly the dimensions of Florida — and is among the largest and fastest-melting glaciers in Antarctica, researchers informed reporters at a press convention on Monday. The Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf, the world of concern, makes up one-third of the glacier. 

That shelf, researcher Erin Pettit informed reporters, is presently “appearing like a dam” for the remainder of the glacier. But heat water has seeped underneath the glacier, inflicting it to soften, and the ice shelf is showing to “lose its grip” on an underwater seamount that retains it secure. 

Ted Scambos, of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, defined that the nice and cozy water beneath the glacier is actually “consuming away on the ice shelf.” 



An picture introduced by the researchers reveals the ice shelf in 2015 and in 2021. 

The American Geophysical Union

Researchers mentioned the shelf’s ice is “rapidly” shattering. The proof signifies that the ice shelf’s “last collapse” could happen within as little as 5 years. 


Such a collapse would probably have a major influence on the ocean. Today, the ice shelf contributes as much as 4% of world sea degree rise, however when it collapses, its contribution to sea degree rise could improve by as a lot as 25%, researchers mentioned. If the entire glacier collapsed, it could raise sea levels by greater than two toes, researchers mentioned. 

If it collapses, it’s additionally more likely to destabilize different glaciers alongside the West Antarctic. The Thwaites is part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, an space roughly the dimensions of India. If that sheet had been to fully soften — which might take centuries, not less than — international sea levels would rise (*5*), in accordance with the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. 

“[Thwaites Glacier is] crucial place to review for near-term sea degree rise,” Scambos mentioned. “Within this century, this glacier all by itself could start to considerably impact sea degree rise.” 

#AGU21 Press Conference: The Threat from Thwaites: The retreat of Antarctica’s riskiest glacier by
AGU on


Last yr, scientists found that heat water had gathered at a “very important level” beneath the glacier. Scientists mentioned on the time that the presence of the nice and cozy water suggests the glacier “could also be present process an unstoppable retreat that has large implications for international sea-level rise.”

And local weather change, Scambos mentioned, is a probable perpetrator within the “dramatic change” anticipated to occur. 

“We’re watching a world that is doing issues that we’ve not actually seen earlier than,” he mentioned Monday. “The ice is responding in some methods which might be shocking us as a result of we’re pushing on local weather extraordinarily rapidly with CO2 emissions and greenhouse forcing.” 

Sea levels have risen about eight inches since 1900, in accordance with NASA, however the fee of the rise is rising. Last yr, scientists warned that the world could anticipate 5 to 10 toes of sea degree rise earlier than the top of the century — reshaping coastlines and forcing a whole lot of thousands and thousands of individuals around the globe to go away their properties. 


Li Cohen


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