Antarctica’s massive Thwaites Glacier is fracturing. And it could shatter like a “car window” within a few years’ time.
The giant chunk of ice—dubbed the Doomsday Glacier—is roughly the same size as Great Britain. And it’s making a dangerous impact on rising sea levels.
The melting glacier is adding a staggering 50 billion tonnes of ice to the sea every year. By doing so, it is responsible for about four percent of the yearly global sea-level rise.
And unfortunately, the Doomsday Glacier is beginning to melt at a faster rate.
“There is going to be dramatic change in the front of the glacier, probably in less than a decade,” Glaciologist Prof Ted Scambos, US lead coordinator for the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) told BBC. “Both published and unpublished studies point in that direction.”
“This will accelerate the pace (of Thwaites) and widen, effectively, the dangerous part of the glacier,” he added.
The Doomsday Glacier Has Doubled its Outflow Over the Past 3 Decades
Over the past thirty years, the outflow of Thwaites Glacier has doubled. According to the team of scientists with ITGC, this is happening because warm water is flowing under the ice shelf, causing it to melt from beneath.
The warm water is eroding the ice, making it weaker and more susceptible to fractures. And if Thwaites were to melt or break completely, the global sea level could rise dramatically.
“Thwaites is the widest glacier in the world,” Dr. Scambos told the American Geophysical Union. “…The glacier in its entirety holds enough water to raise sea level by over two feet. And it could lead to even more sea-level rise, up to 10 feet, if it draws the surrounding glaciers with it.”
Dr. Erin, a glaciologist from Oregon State University, fears that fractures may cause the glacier to “shatter.”
“I visualize it somewhat similar to that car window where you have a few cracks that are slowly propagating, and then suddenly you go over a bump in your car and the whole thing just starts to shatter in every direction.”
If that scenario were to play out, it would be devastating for seaside communities. But unless scientists can quickly figure out a way to slow the melt, nothing can be done to protect the people living in the affected areas. Because once the ice melts, there is no way to reverse the damage.
“We are already on track for sea-level rise in the next several decades that will impact coastal communities worldwide,” she added. “We can’t reverse this sea-level rise, so we need to consider how to mitigate it and protect our coastal communities now.”