Melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier “Doomsday Glacier”
The researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden recently used an uncrewed submarine to go under the Thwaites Glacier to make observations. According to the researchers, the melting of the glacier is worse than previously thought.
The Thwaites Glacier is also called “Doomsday Glacier”. It has been a cause of concern for a long time as it has high potential to speed up the global sea level rise.
The Thwaites Glacier or the Doomsday Glacier is 120 km wide at its broadest. It is spread over 1.9 lakh square kilometres. It is fast moving and has been melting in the recent years. The glacier has high potential to raise the world sea level by more than a metre. According to researchers, the amount of ice flowing out of the glacier has doubled in the past thirty years.
Previous Studies about Doomsday Glacier
According to a 2019 study, a fast-growing cavity was discovered in the glacier that sized two-third of the area of Manhattan. The cavity is growing mainly due to the warm water detected below the glacier. This warm water has been found at two degrees above freezing point at the Grounding Zone or Grounding line of the Doomsday Glacier.
Grounding point or Grounding Zone of Glaciers
The Grounding line of a glacier is the place below the glacier where the ice transits between resting fully on bedrock and floating on ocean as an ice shelf.
The Grounding line retreats when the glaciers melt and lose weight. This in turn exposes more of the underside of the glacier to the seawater. As the exposed surface area increases, the melting of the glacier increases.
Key Findings of the new study
The recent findings made by the Sweden researchers are the first measurements performed beneath the glacier. The submarine sent to go under the glacier was called “Ran”. It measured temperature, strength, salinity, and oxygen content of the ocean currents that go under the glacier. With this data, the researchers have mapped the ocean currents beneath the glacier.
There are three inflows of warm water beneath the glacier. Among them the damaging effects of one of the currents had been underestimated in the past.
The main concern according to the study is that warm water is approaching the pinning points of the glacier from all sides.
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