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Doomsday Glacier will drown us all


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Not sure how credible The Science Times is, but this is a little disconcerting.


Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica is enormous and is often referred to as the most dangerous glacier on Earth. The glacier holds two feet of sea level but more importantly, it is the "backstop" for four other glaciers which holds an additional 10 to 13 feet of sea level rise. When Thwaites collapses, it will take most of West Antarctica with it.

According to researchers at the University of Washington in 2014, Thwaites is already collapsing. "The simulations indicate that early-stage collapse has begun," notes their paper. What's more, the Thwaites Glacier is a "linchpin" for the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet; its rapid collapse would "probably spill over to adjacent catchments, undermining much of West Antarctica."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory made news this past January by revealing that there is a massive cavity carved in the underbelly of the glacier due to warm ocean water raising alarms that the chunk of ice could collapse and disintegrate the ice shelf. It reportedly has an area the size of two-thirds of Manhattan and is as tall as a ten story building, at 1000 feet. The newfound hole had held fourteen billion tons of ice and, NASA observed that the horrifying melt and decay was not there just three short years ago. It was NASA's Icebridge program that made the discovery using ice-penetrating radar through the miles' deep glacier as well as "data from a constellation of Italian and German spaceborne synthetic aperture radars". But that was just one of the terrors that the satellites found, it confirmed fears that Thwaites was not attached to the bedrock.


Another changing feature is a glacier's grounding line, the place near the edge of the continent where it lifts off its bed and starts to float on seawater. Many Antarctic glaciers extend for miles beyond their grounding lines, floating out over the open ocean. Just as a grounded boat can float again when the weight of its cargo is removed, a glacier that loses ice weight can float over land where it used to stick. When this happens, the grounding line retreats inland. That exposes more of a glacier's underside to seawater, increasing the likelihood that its melt rate will accelerate.

It's not just that Thwaites is big, although it is, because of how the glacier terminates in deep water, as well as the reverse slope of the ground beneath it, Thwaites is vulnerable to particularly rapid collapse. Even more troubling, Thwaites is like the cork in the wine bottle for the rest of the West Antarctica ice sheet. If Thwaites were to fall apart, scientists fear the entire ice sheet could begin to collapse, eventually raising sea levels more than 10 feet.




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On 7/29/2019 at 8:49 AM, Hornius Emeritus said:

It reportedly has an area the size of two-thirds of Manhattan and is as tall as a ten story building, at 1000 feet.


Uh, what?

This caught my eye as well. Perhaps this is why space-management on the east coast is so shitty?

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So 14 billion tons of ice has already melted and didn't raise sea levels?  

Yeah, it’s bad but I have a hard time believing a block of ice the size of Manhattan could raise worldwide sea levels by 1mm much less 13 feet.

Doing the math, there’s 1.332 billion cubic kilometers of ocean water. Manhattan is 23 square km. 1,000 feet is .305km. That’s about 7 cubic km or 0.0000005255255255% of the ocean.
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