(ORDO NEWS) — The so-called “Doomsday Glacier” in Antarctica, nicknamed because of its high risk of collapse and threat to global sea levels, could retreat rapidly in the coming years, scientists say, heightening concerns about extreme sea levels.
The Thwaites Glacier, capable of raising sea levels by several meters, is collapsing along its underwater base as the planet warms.
In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists mapped the glacier’s historical retreat, hoping to learn from its past how the glacier will behave in the future.
They found that at some point in the past two centuries, the base of the glacier had moved away from the seafloor and was receding at a rate of 2.1 kilometers per year. This is double the rate that scientists have observed over the past decade or so.
This rapid decay may have occurred “as late as the middle of the 20th century,” Alastair Graham, lead author of the study and a marine geophysicist at the University of South Florida, said in a press release.
This suggests that Thwaites has the ability to retreat quickly in the near future once he breaks away from the ridge on the seafloor that helps keep him under control.
“Thwaites is really holding on with its nails today, and we should expect big changes on small time scales in the future even from year to year once the glacier retreats over a shallow ridge in its bed,” said Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist and one of the co-authors. research from the British Antarctic Survey.
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