Earth's Inner Heat Chipping Away at Antarctica's 'Doomsday Glacier', Study Says
18:24 GMT 21.08.2021 (Updated: 19:33 GMT 03.11.2022)
A collapse of the glacier into the ocean would reportedly result in global sea levels rising by about 65 centimetres.
A new study suggests that the Thwaites Glacier located in West Antarctica, which has been melting since the 1980s and contributed to 4 percent of “annual global sea-level rise during that time," may not only be shrinking due to global warming, Live Science reports.
According to the media outlet, the authors of the new research established that Earth’s crust beneath East Antarctica is significantly thicker than under the West Antarctica, with the Thwaites Glacier – sometimes referred to as the Doomsday Glacier – therefore being subjected to more geothermal heat than its counterparts on the other side of the frozen continent.
"Our measurements show that where the Earth's crust is only 17 to 25 kilometres thick, geothermal heat flow of up to 150 milliwatts per square meter can occur beneath Thwaites Glacier," said Ricarda Dziadek, geophysicist at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research and lead author of the study.
27 February 2021, 00:58 GMT
As Karsten Gohl, geologist and AWI and study co-author, explained, large amounts of geothermal heat may result in "the bottom of the glacier bed no longer freezing completely" or in a "constant film of water forming on its surface" – both of these conditions may be "considerably" accelerating the glacier’s loss of ice.
If the Thwaites Glacier were to collapse into the ocean completely, the media outlet warns that it would cause global sea levels to rise by about 65 centimetres.
Also, the glacier’s possible disappearance, with it no longer “plugging the edge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet like a cork in a bottle of wine,” would accelerate ice loss in the region and cause “unprecedented levels of sea level rise.”