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Thwaites Ice Shelf:The "Doomsday Glacier"



  Apr 18, 2024

Thwaites Ice Shelf:The "Doomsday Glacier"



1. Why is Thwaites Ice Shelf referred to as the "Doomsday Glacier"?

Thwaites Ice Shelf has earned the nickname "Doomsday Glacier" because of its significant size and the extreme risk it poses to global sea levels. If Thwaites were to melt completely, it could lead to a considerable rise in sea levels, potentially over 2 feet, which would have catastrophic effects on coastal areas around the world.

2. What makes Thwaites Ice Shelf unique in terms of its structure and behavior?

Thwaites is unique due to its size, rapid rate of melting, and its particular susceptibility to both oceanic and atmospheric influences. Its underlying topography, which includes deep underwater basins, allows warm ocean currents to erode the ice shelf from below, accelerating its melting process.

3. What are the potential consequences of Thwaites melting completely?

The complete melting of Thwaites could drastically alter global sea levels, threatening coastal communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems worldwide. Additionally, the glacier acts as a backstop for neighboring glaciers, so its collapse could potentially trigger further instabilities in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

4. What are scientists doing to monitor and study Thwaites Ice Shelf?

Scientists are employing a range of technologies and methods to study Thwaites, including satellite observations, airborne radar measurements, and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that analyze the sea conditions beneath the ice. These efforts are part of international collaborations aimed at understanding the glacier's dynamics and predicting its future behavior.

5. How does climate change affect Thwaites Ice Shelf?

Climate change exacerbates the melting of Thwaites Ice Shelf by warming the ocean waters that flow beneath it and altering the patterns of snowfall and air temperatures that impact its surface. These changes increase the rate of melting and calving, leading to a faster retreat of the glacier.

6. What ongoing research projects are focused on Thwaites?

Several significant research projects are focused on Thwaites, including the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC), a joint project between the United States and the United Kingdom. This project aims to gather data on the physical processes affecting Thwaites and improve models predicting its impact on sea-level rise.


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