July 19, 2024

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New research on Thwaites Glacier could reshape sea level rise predictions: NPR

New research on Thwaites Glacier could reshape sea level rise predictions: NPR

Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is shown in this undated NASA image. Researchers say regions of the glacier may see “strong melting” from warming ocean water due to climate change.

NASA via Reuters


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NASA via Reuters

Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is shown in this undated NASA image. Researchers say regions of the glacier may see “strong melting” from warming ocean water due to climate change.

NASA via Reuters

A team of scientists says seawater flowing under and into gaps in Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is contributing to the melting of the massive ice formation. – A potentially ominous sign of the coming impacts of human-caused climate change from the world’s largest glacier.

These areas of the glacier may see “strong melting” from warm ocean water due to climate change, which could lead to a faster rise in sea levels around the world.

“The concern is that we are underestimating the speed at which the glacier is changing, which will be devastating for coastal communities around the world,” said Christine Dow, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada and co-author of the study. press release.

But researchers say more work is needed to fully understand the effects of warm water beneath the ice formation.

At approximately 80 miles wide, the Thwaites River is the widest glacier in the world and is roughly the size of Florida. He. She It has been dubbed the “Doomsday Glacier” because of the catastrophic effects its melting could have on global sea level rise.

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Every year, the Thwaites River loses about 50 billion tons of ice, which accounts for about 4% of the total sea level rise worldwide. According to the Thwaites Glacier International Collaboration. One estimate And he expected The total loss of Thwaites could cause average global sea levels to rise by more than 2 feet, and could cause sea levels to rise even further in Some parts of the United States

in the study Published Monday in the magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesThe team of glaciologists used radar data captured between March and June last year by Finland’s commercial satellite program ICEYE to get a better idea of ​​what’s happening beneath the surface of the glacier.

They found that seawater flows in and out of the glacier with the tides, mixing with fresh water, but some of the warm ocean water also travels deep into the ice formation, passing “through natural channels” or collecting “in cavities” and becoming trapped.

“There are places where the water is almost at the pressure of the overlying ice, so a little more pressure is needed to push the ice up,” said Eric Rignot, professor of Earth system sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and lead author of the study. “The water is then compressed enough to lift a column more than half a mile long of ice.”

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Salty seawater near Antarctica has a lower freezing point (28°F) than fresh water, which may contribute more to the melting of glaciers.

Dow suggested that additional modeling of ice sheets could help scientists better understand what’s happening beneath these major glaciers and develop a more accurate timeline for projected sea level rise around the world.

“This work will help people adapt to changing ocean levels, along with focusing on reducing carbon emissions to prevent a worst-case scenario,” Dow said.