Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Is Starting to Crack

Oceans
Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Is Starting to Crack
Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, aka the "Doomsday Glacier," is starting to crack. NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier has been called the "Doomsday Glacier." Thwaites and its neighbor, the Pine Island Glacier, are among those in West Antarctica most influenced by the climate crisis. If they melted, they could destabilize the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which has the potential to contribute about 10 feet to global sea level rise.


Now, a new study has found that the ice shelves supporting the two crucial glaciers are beginning to fissure and crack.

"These ice shelves are in the early phase of disintegration," study leader and Delft University of Technology satellite expert Stef Lhermitte told CNN. "They're starting to tear apart."

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, looked at satellite images taken between 1997 and 2019 to document the ice shelves' increasing damage. The images show crevices and fissures in the glaciers, according to a Delft press release.

 

Ice shelves are important for a glacier's stability because they provide support, similarly to how flying buttresses support a cathedral, International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration lead principle researcher Brent Goehring told ABC News. Goehring was not involved with the paper.

The damage is occurring in the glaciers' shear zones, parts of the ice shelves where the fast-moving ice on top connects with the slower-moving ice or rock beneath, CNN explained. That damage significantly increased in 2016.

The researchers think that the damage they observed to the ice shelves will only beget more damage, Lhermitte explained in a Twitter thread. This is for three reasons:

  1. The damage undermines the structural integrity of the ice shelves.
  2. The damage weakens the ice shelves and makes them more vulnerable to warming air and ocean temperatures.
  3. The damage creates a feedback loop, leading to more weakening and more damage.

Because of this, the scientists suggested that the damage be accounted for in climate models to better predict how Antarctic ice melt will contribute to sea level rise.

Sea levels are currently rising by around 3.5 millimeters a year, and the Thwaites Glacier accounts for four to five percent of that, Goehring told ABC News.

"If those glaciers would destabilize, a lot of neighboring areas would also fall apart, causing a widespread collapse," Indrani Das, a co-principle researcher on an International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration project, told ABC News. "It would cause a huge sea level rise."

However, Das did not think it likely that the collapse would take place this century.

A 3-hour special film by EarthxTV calls for protection of the Amazon and its indigenous populations. EarthxTV.org

To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less

Trending

New Delhi's smog is particularly thick, increasing the risk of vehicle accidents. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images

India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?

Read More Show Less
A bridge over the Delaware river connects New Hope, Pennsylvania with Lambertville, New Jersey. Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Read More Show Less
Woodpecker

Colombia is one of the world's largest producers of coffee, and yet also one of the most economically disadvantaged. According to research by the national statistic center DANE, 35% of the population in Columbia lives in monetary poverty, compared to an estimated 11% in the U.S., according to census data. This has led to a housing insecurity issue throughout the country, one which construction company Woodpecker is working hard to solve.

Read More Show Less