"Doomsday Glacier" in Antarctica: Glacier "only holds on with fingernails"

Melting glaciers have become almost a daily occurrence, but the situation at Thwaites in Antarctica is particularly dramatic: the giant is melting at an alarming rate at its base.

"Doomsday Glacier" in Antarctica: Glacier "only holds on with fingernails"

Melting glaciers have become almost a daily occurrence, but the situation at Thwaites in Antarctica is particularly dramatic: the giant is melting at an alarming rate at its base. Its complete loss would inundate coastal areas worldwide. Therefore it is also called "doomsday glacier".

According to a study, a gigantic glacier in Antarctica is in danger of melting faster than previously thought - which could lead to a dramatic rise in sea levels. Thwaites Glacier is located in the western part of Antarctica and, at 192,000 square kilometers, is about the size of the US state of Florida. Because of its global importance, it is also called the "Doomsday Glacier". An international team of researchers has now mapped the retreat of the ice giant over the centuries with the aim of learning from it for the future. The results give cause for concern.

The study was published in the journal "Nature Geoscience". The team used an autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with sensors. The researchers found that sometime in the past two centuries, the front part of the glacier broke away from the sea floor in less than six months and then retreated at a rate of 2.1 kilometers per year - about twice as fast as in the past years.

"Our results suggest that very rapidly receding pulses have occurred at Thwaites Glacier for the past two centuries and possibly into the mid-20th century," said University of South Florida marine geophysicist Alastair Graham. one of the lead authors of the study.

The giant, which is under constant observation by scientists, is melting along its underwater edge due to warm ocean currents. The potential impact of Thwaites' retreat is staggering, a statement accompanying the study said: A complete loss of the glacier and surrounding ice could result in a sea level rise of 90 centimeters to 3 meters. As a result, coastal cities around the world could be partially flooded.

Co-author Robert Larter of the British Antarctic Survey warned: "Thwaites is really holding on with his fingernails now." For the future, large changes on small time scales can be expected as soon as the glacier has retreated beyond a certain point.

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