Scientists set out to explore the Thwaites Glacier to find out how fast oceans will rise due to melting Antarctic ice – Technology News, Firstpost

A team of scientists is sailing to “the hardest place in the world to get to” so they can better figure out how much and how fast the oceans will rise due to the global warming that is consuming the Antarctic ice.

Thirty-two scientists begin a more than two-month mission aboard a U.S. research ship on Thursday to study the crucial area where the massive but melting Thwaites Glacier faces the Amundsen Sea and could eventually lose large amounts of ice due to heat. water. The Florida-sized glacier has been nicknamed the “doomsday glacier” because of how much ice it has and how much ocean can rise if it all melts – more than two feet (65 centimeters) over hundreds of years.

Because of its importance, the United States and Britain are in the middle of a joint $ 50 million mission to study Thwaites, the widest glacier in the world by land and sea. Not near any of the continent’s research stations, Thwaites is located in the western half of Antarctica, east of the protruding Antarctic Peninsula, which used to be the area of ​​concern to scientists.

“Thwaites is the main reason I want to say that we have such a great deal of uncertainty in the projections of future sea level rise, and that’s because it’s a very remote area, hard to reach,” said Anna Wahlin, an oceanographer from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. , said Wednesday in an interview from research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, who was scheduled to leave his port in Chile hours later. “It’s configured in a way that’s potentially unstable. And that’s why we’re concerned about this.”

Thwaites puts about 50 billion tons of ice in the water a year. The British Antarctic Survey says the glacier is responsible for four percent of global sea level rise, and the conditions leading to it losing more ice are accelerating, University of Colorado ice researcher Ted Scambos of McMurdo Land Station said last month.

Oregon State University ice researcher Erin Pettit said the Thwaites appear to be collapsing in three ways:
Melting of seawater from below.
– The land part of the glacier “loses its grip” to the place it attaches to the seabed, so that a large part can get out into the sea and later melt.
– The glacier’s ice shelf breaks into hundreds of fragments like a damaged car window. This is what Pettit said she fears will be the most troublesome with six-mile (10-kilometer) long cracks forming in just one year.

No one has ever set foot on the important ice-water interface at Thwaites before. In 2019, Wahlin was on a team that explored the area from a ship using a robotic ship, but never went ashore.

Wahlin’s team will use two robotic ships – her own big one called Ran, which she used in 2019, and the more agile Boaty McBoatface, the crowdsource drone that could go further under the Thwaites area that juts out over the sea – to get under Thwaites.

The ship-bound scientists will measure the water temperature, the seabed and the thickness of the ice. They will look at cracks in the ice, how the ice is structured and mark seals on islands off the glacier.

Thwaites “looks different from other ice shelves,” Wahlin said. “It almost looks like a tangle of icebergs that have been squeezed together. So it’s more and more clear that this is not a solid piece of ice like the other ice shelves are, nice smooth solid ice. This was much more thankful and the scar.”

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