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Researchers Observe Large Cracks Across Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’

Researchers Observe Large Cracks Across Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’

#Researchers #Observe #Large #Cracks #Antarcticas #Doomsday #Glacier Welcome to InNewCL, here is the new story we have for you today:

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An image of the Icefin robot beneath the sea ice near McMurdo Station, taken in 2019.

An image of the Icefin robot beneath the sea ice near McMurdo Station, taken in 2019. Photo by Rob Robbins, USAP Diver

Thanks to a thin, torpedo-shaped robot, scientists have been able to better observe the forces eroding Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, also known as the “doomsday glacier,” which could cause sea levels to rise rapidly if it melts.

A research team sent the remote-controlled underwater robot Icefin under the glacier in West Antarctica. They found that overall the ice melted more slowly than previously predicted by computer models, but they also observed where melting was more likely. Their findings will be published in two separate articles in the journal Nature this week.

Underwater robot helps explain Antarctic glacier retreat

British and US scientists from the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration traveled to the glacier in late 2019 to drill into the ice. They created a hole almost 600 meters deep and dropped the Icefin robot. In their observations, the researchers found that the ice shelf is melting at a rate of 2 to 5.4 meters per year, which is slower than previously thought. “It shows us that this system is very complex and requires a rethink of how the ocean is melting the ice, especially in a place like Thwaites,” said scientist Peter Washam in a press release.

Researchers deploy the Icefin on Thwaites Glacier in January 2020.

Researchers deploy the Icefin on Thwaites Glacier in January 2020. Photo: Icefin/ITGC/Dichek

The team also found that the landscape beneath the glacier is riddled with crevasses and large cracks running through the ice. Melting occurred faster in these cracks because warm, salty water was able to penetrate. Ocean temperatures around Antarctica have increased, likely due to climate change.

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“These new ways of observing glaciers allow us to understand that in these very warm parts of Antarctica, it’s not just how much meltwater is happening that matters, but how and where it’s happening,” said Britney Schmidt, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University, according to a press release. “We see crevasses and probably terraces over warming glaciers like Thwaites. Warm water seeps into the cracks and helps wear down the glacier at its weakest points.”

These results are alarming because if the giant glacier (which is about the size of Florida) collapses, it could cause global sea levels to rise by more than half a meter. The collapse of this glacier could also “destabilize neighboring glaciers, which will further 3[meters]of future sea level rise,” the researchers write in the study.

Although overall ice melt is occurring more slowly than previously modeled, that doesn’t change the fact that Doomsday Glacier is in trouble. The baseline where the glacier meets bedrock has retreated about 14 km since the late 1990s.

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