Science

Entire Antarctic ice sheet melting at an alarming rate

Entire Antarctic ice sheet melting at an alarming rate”

The rates have doubled, singling out the Thwaites Glacier as a significant contributor to rising sea levels.

Britain and the United States launched a $25 million project previous year to study the risks of the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier.

In the 1980s, Antarctica lost 40 billion tons of ice annually. Within the last decade, that number jumped to a median of 252 billion tons per year.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found that the glacier was prone to ice melt faster than previously expected.

NASA experts believe that the melting of the Thwaites glacier is approaching a "tipping point".

Thwaites glacier is now so unstable that it is all but inevitable it will melt into the ocean, raising sea levels by a staggering 20 inches.

"After reaching the tipping point, Thwaite's Glacier might lose all of its ice in 150 years", Hélène Seroussi, an author of the research and a NASA scientist, mentioned in a press release. "That would make for a sea level rise of about half a meter (1.64 feet)", NASA JPL scientist Helene Seroussi added.

"If you trigger this instability, you don't need to continue to force the ice sheet by cranking up temperatures", said Alex Robel, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, who led the study.

"It should keep going by itself, and that is the worry", he mentioned.

Earlier this year, NASA added fuel to the fire by discovering a huge void lurking beneath Thwaites Glacier.

Thwaites fglacoer measures approximately 70,000 miles (about the size of the USA state of Florida) and scientists have warned it is reaching "tipping point", meaning it will be impossible to reverse the process of the glacier melting and raising sea levels.

"Ice flows out into the floating ice shelf and melts or breaks off as icebergs".

We're seriously underestimating Antarctica's ability to push global sea level rise, a new study reports.

"(The size of) a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting", said NASA scientist Dr Pietro Milillo. According to new research, Antarctic ice hides a serious instability which could cause the melting flow to accelerate and flow into the ocean. The point where the overhanging glacier, sea and bedrock meet is called the "grounding line".

On the other hand, Antarctica holds the most land-supported ice, even if much of that land is seabed holding up just part of the ice's mass, while water holds up part of it.

Most of that water is frozen in masses of ice and snow that can be up to 10,000 feet (3 kilometres) thick.

Because of human activity, greenhouse gases are sent into the atmosphere. The warm air and water is what's causing ice sheets and glaciers to melt at unprecedented rates.

The Thwaites Glacier is "the largest single source of uncertainty in projections of future sea-level rise", according to the study's abstract.

As the researchers see it now, Thwaites prevents its neighbors from falling into the ocean. At some point, its destruction and the increase in sea level of 50 centimeters will become irreversible, which poses a global threat to humanity.



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