Record Warm Water Measured Beneath Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday’ Glacier
Scientists have discovered record warm water beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier" for the first time, leading to concerns for the glacier whose collapse could contribute nearly a meter (approximately 3 feet) to global sea level rise.
The findings are part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration — a UK and U.S.-led research expedition to better understand how quickly the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica might collapse. On Jan. 8 and 9, researchers drilled a bore hole through the ice, then measured the waters beneath for the first time on Jan. 10 and 11, according to New York University (NYU). They recorded temperatures more than two degrees Celsius above freezing.
"Warm waters in this part of the world, as remote as they may seem, should serve as a warning to all of us about the potential dire changes to the planet brought about by climate change," researcher David Holland, who directs NYU's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and NYU Abu Dhabi's Center for Global Sea Level Change, said in the university press release. "If these waters are causing glacier melt in Antarctica, resulting changes in sea level would be felt in more inhabited parts of the world."
The Thwaites Glacier has been called the "doomsday" glacier and the "most important" glacier in the world, BBC News explained. The glacier, roughly the size of Britain or Florida, already contributes four percent a year to global sea level rise. Not only that, it acts as a stop on the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which could raise sea levels by more than three meters (approximately 10 feet).
"It certainly has a big impact on our U.S. coast and in many areas," Twila Moon of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, who is not involved with the Thwaites project, told The New York Times of the glacier.
While satellite data shows that the glacier is rapidly retreating, there has not been an on-the-ground investigation of the glacier until now, BBC News reported. Partly, this is because of how difficult it is to reach. West Antarctica is the stormiest place on Earth, and the glacier is more than 1,000 miles from the closest research station.
Researchers specifically took measurements from the glacier's grounding zone. That's the place where the glacier's ice moves off of bedrock and into the sea, NYU explained. Thwaites is especially precarious because the bed it rests on slopes downward, according to BBC News. As warm water melts the ice between the glacier's surface and the bedrock, the glacier retreats and the ice on top is more likely to break off.
"The fear is these processes will just accelerate," University of Oregon glaciologist Dr. Kiya Riverman told BBC News. "It is a feedback loop, a vicious cycle."
To better understand the grounding zone, the scientists drilled a 600 meter (approximately 1,968.5 feet) hole through the ice and used a device to measure the ocean's temperature and turbulence — a sign of the glacier's fresh water mixing with the salt water of the ocean. This is the first time scientists have measured the ocean beneath Thwaites through a bore hole, and their results so far show they were right to be worried.
"The fact that such warm water was just now recorded by our team along a section of Thwaites grounding zone where we have known the glacier is melting suggests that it may be undergoing an unstoppable retreat that has huge implications for global sea level rise," Holland told NYU.
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The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati
Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, the biggest recorded earthquake in Japanese history hit the country's northeast coast. It was followed by a tsunami that traveled up to 6 miles inland, reaching heights of over 140 feet in some areas and sweeping entire towns away in seconds.
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Nuclear power generates about 10% of the world's electricity (TWh = terawatt-hours). About 50 new plants are under construction, but many operating plants are aging. World Nuclear Association / CC BY-ND
<div id="07c42" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac2be7bdc1a748c089d24d27f01992a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366694917045690369" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🇸🇪 Nuclear Safety statement in IAEA BoG: Important safety upgrades introduced at 6 remaining nuclear power stations… https://t.co/FrgHv4N4UL</div> — SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪 (@SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪)<a href="https://twitter.com/SwedenUN_Vienna/statuses/1366694917045690369">1614680434.0</a></blockquote></div>
Author Najmedin Meshkati holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Najmedin Meshkati / CC BY-ND
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"Watch. Connect. Take Action."
These words are the invitation and mandate of the WaterBear Network, a free film-streaming platform that launched in November of 2020. Its goal is to turn inspirational images of the natural world into actions to save it.
WaterBear CEO Ellen Windemuth uses films to inspire planet-positive actions. WaterBear
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By Kenny Stancil
Amid the ongoing climate emergency and the devastating coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone as well as an economic meltdown that has left millions of people unemployed, the Sunrise Movement on Thursday launched its "Good Jobs for All" campaign to demand that lawmakers pursue a robust recovery that guarantees a good job to anyone who wants one and puts the country on a path toward a Green New Deal.
<div id="c7fe3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5664692fdfd187db01eff5ac2787c564"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1367650177436311562" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">We’re coming together to fight for each other and guarantee #GoodJobsForAll Join us: https://t.co/MoJhmlzoaS https://t.co/IAPa8DeeLR</div> — Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)<a href="https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/statuses/1367650177436311562">1614908186.0</a></blockquote></div>
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bpperry / Getty Images
By Tara Lohan
Each year the amount of plastic swirling in ocean gyres and surfing the tide toward coastal beaches seems to increase. So too does the amount of plastic particles being consumed by fish — including species that help feed billions of people around the world.
Blue shark at Cape Point, South Africa, 2016. Steve Woods / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0