September 26, 2022

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What happens when the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, the so-called "Doomsday Glacier", breaks up?

What happens when the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, the so-called “Doomsday Glacier”, breaks up?

Many Climate change Activists have recently suggested that the “doomsday” that the term “Doomsday Glacier” – the nickname given to the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica – may come soon. But how will that day be?

As mentioned in a scary new leaf in the magazine natural earth sciences By a team led by oceanographer geologist Alistair JC Graham, Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier may be closer to a major breakup event than previously thought.

Here’s what’s new in our understanding of this situation: This new study involved analyzing ridges on the sea floor. These rib-like formations reveal powerful clues to the centuries-old location of the glacier as it was pushed by the tide every day. This differs from the data previously collected about the glacier, pulled from satellite maps of the ice as it heads more and more toward total (or near-total) avalanche in the ocean,

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Using this new method of measuring the “footprints” of a glacier, if you will, we now know that an abrupt six-month melt event occurred at some point in the past 200 years. In that short period, the portion of the glacier that caused those formations retreated to the ocean floor at twice the rate that satellite images were able to detect. This means that in addition to the steady loss of mass that scientists already know about, there are also rarer pulsations and the fear of very rapid disintegration.

“Thwaites is really sticking with its nails today, and we should expect to see big changes on small time scales in the future,” said marine geophysicist Robert Larter, one of the study’s authors. said in statement to the press.

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So the disintegration of this glacier seems imminent, and the consequences of this collapse are no joke. according to 2020 estimate From the international Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, four percent of sea level rise caused by climate change so far has come from Thwaites alone, and a sudden total collapse would raise sea levels by 25 inches more.

“Scientists want to know how quickly this can happen,” wrote Collaboration Director of Communications Athena Dinar. a permit.

How fast is the Thwaites glacier melting?

The question of how quickly Thwaites deteriorate is an urgent question. A sudden avalanche would see a staggering amount of new water suddenly thrown into the ocean, and it’s hard not to imagine the water rising all at once, like when you plunge a large ice cube into a full glass.

A catastrophic inundation may occur overnight, but the available evidence from this new study points to a “doomsday” scenario spanning at least six months. This is scary and similar Shifts in the movement of ocean waters It has historical precedents, but fortunately, compared to the all at once scenario, six months is enough time for people living in low-lying coastal neighborhoods to evacuate.

See for yourself the possible sea level rise

The Spooky New Coast of Louisiana
Credit: screenshot / NOAA

You can see for yourself what Thwaites’ avalanche would look like thanks to Sea level rise viewer, a web application created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This redraws any US coastline to take into account any given amount of sea level rise (in 12-inch increments).

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For example, it will destroy southern Louisiana and Mississippi. However, in New York, Manhattan was only littered with – despite the risk of flooding in low-lying areas like Hudson Yards. The city I live in, Los Angeles, will mostly be saved, except for the area around Venice Beach.

An annoying name might hide a bigger problem

None of this is in any way intended to mitigate the horrors of sea-level rise, but it is noteworthy that scholars have expressed concerns about attaching horrific significance to Thwaites in particular, particularly in an article he published Jackson Ryan from CNET. “On the one hand, it’s a wake-up call, aka Take these things seriously“On the other hand, it sums up the situation as if there was one bad glacier,” NASA Earth scientist Eric Rignot told Ryan.

As Ryan points out in this article, the nickname “Doomsday Glacier” may do more harm than good, given that there is Other large ice formations Nothing to worry about. As Ryan notes, “One of the main reasons scientists feel uncomfortable with the phrase is that it suggests that we are already doomed.”

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“Doom” is a deceptive rhetorical tool to use effectively in this context, given that the IPCC Sixth report He noted that better climate policies are likely to produce climate benefits for decades from the time they come into effect — perhaps Up to 30 years on the road, according to chapter 4 of the report. so it was Not It is doomed to fail, but at the same time, nothing we do now will benefit today’s youth until they are about to get old.

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This means that if the so-called “Doomsday Glacier” is clinging to a thread, it may really be too late to stop it from melting.

To sum up: Thwaites will likely reach the critical point scientists fear, and disintegrate completely. When and if it does, the results could be catastrophic, but they wouldn’t be horrific.